American Indian language            American Indian tribes            What's new on our site today!

Setting the Record Straight About Native Peoples: Nomenclature

Q: By the way, is it "Native Americans," "American Indians," or what?
A: The languages are properly referred to as 'Amerindian'. As for the people, opinion is divided on that count. Most native people in the Unites States use 'Indian' or 'American Indian'. In Canada, 'First Nations' and 'aboriginal' are getting more popular. In Central America, many people use 'indigeno' or 'indigenous'. The truth is that any of these--or 'Native Americans', or 'native peoples', or anything else polite--is fine. It's a generic term, after all, like 'European'. Each of our nations has its own name and identity. So to the best of my experience, we don't have too much tied up in what we get called as a collective term, any more than a Frenchman and an Englishman would argue over the word 'Europe'. On this website, we have used 'American Indian', 'Native American', and 'native peoples' more or less interchangeably. I've been a little worried that 'American Indians' may sound like we're referring only to Indians in the US, which is not our intent. We are just trying to use general terms which everyone will understand.



Previous question: Who was more civilized, Native Americans or white people?
Back to the Infrequently Asked Questions index
Language of the day: Cheyenne



Native American Words * Native American Art * Native American Names

Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?

Native Languages of the Americas website 1998-2007 * Contacts and FAQ page