6 terms that non-Indigenous people need to stop appropriating
October 12, 2020
Terms that have been appropriated from Native American cultures in North America are pervasive in our society today: Mugs and t-shirts are emblazoned with words like “tribe” and “spirit animal.” The most popular sports teams in the country have names like the Chiefs and the Braves. These terms can be microaggressions that are easily unlearned if non-Indigenous people take the time to understand their history and origins while others are outright demeaning and insulting, and should have been eradicated from our popular lexicon long ago.
As non-Indigenous writers ourselves, we have noticed that white people in particular have seamlessly integrated these words into daily conversations, sometimes without noticing, acknowledging, or perhaps even caring about the connotations of those words, or how triggering that might be for Native American people to hear this language thrown out without any regard to its context. We hope that our fellow non-Indigenous people will take the time to learn the meaning of these words and then make educated decisions about how to use them in daily life. But don’t take our word for it: Always seek out the words of Native American people when drawing conclusions about these terms, whether it’s in essays, books, documentaries, scholarly works, or even tweets (and we’ve done our best to include the voices of Native American folks here, too). The next step is to start conversation among your friends who appropriate Indigenous culture and use hurtful language — it shouldn’t always be on Indigenous people to educate ignorant people but on us to spread the word and help each other learn.
In effort to do that, here are six terms that non-Indigenous people need to stop appropriating.