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Why "American Indian" ?
Russell Means says it best:
I AM AN AMERICAN INDIAN,
NOT A NATIVE AMERICAN!
January 16, 1998
I abhor the term Native American. It is a generic government term used to describe all the indigenous prisoners of the United States. These are the American Samoans, the Micronesians, the Aleutes, the original Hawaiians and the erroneously termed Eskimos, who are actually Upiks and Inupiaqs. And, of course, the American Indian.
The statistics used by the United States government to tell you how many "Native Americans" there are in this country include all of the above, the misnomer is everyone assumes, in the contiguous 48 states, that the total number of "Native Americans" is the total number of American Indians. Not true. There are approximately 1.7 million "Native Americans", of that number, there are approximately 1.2 million American Indians of which less than 600,000 live on Indian reservations.
I prefer the term American Indian because I know its origins. The word Indian is an English bastardization of two Spanish words, En Dio, which correctly translated means in with God. As an added distinction the American Indian is the only ethnic group in the United States with the American before our ethnicity.
At an international conference of Indians from the Americas held in Geneva, Switzerland at the United Nations in 1977 we unanimously decided we would go under the term American Indian. "We were enslaved as American Indians, we were colonized as American Indians and we will gain our freedom as American Indians and then we will call ourselves any damn thing we choose."
Finally, I will not allow a government, any government, to define who I am. Besides, anyone born in the Western hemisphere is a Native American.