American Indian or Native American?


Non-thematically linked photo of my dinner rolls before baking.

As a general rule I try to avoid comment sections, but recently I found myself in a comment section where a commenter was scolding the poster for using the term, American Indian.

I’m not in charge of what people are or are not supposed to say, but in my experience, Indians refer to themselves and other Indians, as Indians.

What is my experience? Tribal citizenship with lifelong social and cultural contact with my Tribe. I’ve been a legal professional involved with tribes and tribal organizations for over twenty years.

Personally, I don’t like the term Native American and avoid using it most of the time. I use a person’s nation if I know it. Otherwise, I use tribal, indigenous, or native. I refer to myself as a Karuk Indian.

What do others say about the issue?

Learn NC has a good academic discussion of American Indian v. Native American. It concludes that, generally, either term is acceptable.

Indian Country Today interviewed several prominent NDNs to ask what they preferred. Most of them prefer to be called by their nation.

Native Times published an editorial that strongly supports referring to ourselves as Indians.

Edited August 2017: A recent article in Indian Country Today advocates for calling us by our nation.