Inour pickers were tasked with finding Native American objects to sell at auction. On the surface, the task seemed simple enough, especially in the state that has the largest Native American population in the United States. Miller set out on a search for ancient pottery, while guest-Picker Bob Cirillo started hunting for tribal turquoise. But soon the Pickers found themselves searching for more than just a good bargain; they were also on a search for meaning — the meaning of the term Native American.
Bob passed up a beautiful pair of Casas Grandes pots from Mexico, because they were Mexican Indian. But could they also fall under the Native American umbrella? What about a water vessel from the Tarahumara tribe of northwest Mexico? How about a pair of gauntlets from the Salish tribes that inhabited the northwest corner of the continent before our modern-day boundaries existed? Does Native American encompass all indigenous peoples of the Americas or only those within U.S. borders? Does it even make sense to delineate ancient tribes along modern geographical lines?
In the long history of the indigenous peoples that have inhabited the American continents for thousands of years, the Native American identity is still relatively new. It arose out of the 1960s Indian Rights movement in the U.S. and the rejection of the term "Indian," which was considered out-of-date, inaccurate, and even offensive. After all, the term was coined by a confused Columbus, who mistook the Caribbean islands for the East Indies and thus mislabeled the people he encountered.
Indian represented an era of European colonization and oppression. Native, on the other hand, implied roots before Columbus and gave indigenous peoples status as the original inhabits of the continent. In the 1980s, Canadians responded to similar sentiments with the term First Nations, and later, First Peoples, which encompassed the Inuit and Métis peoples as well. Indigenous peoples gained favor in Mexico.
The subject, however, remains sensitive and disputed. In 2006, this issue came up during an ANTIQUES ROADSHOW appraisal of a 1902 Colt gun. To resolve this question, the show drew on a 1988 essay by Lakota activist Russell Means:
"In the end, the term you choose to use (as an Indian or non-Indian) is your own personal choice. ... Very few Indians that I know care either way. The recommended method is to refer to a person by their tribe, if that information is known. The reason is that the Native peoples of North America are incredibly diverse. It would be like referring to both a Romanian and an Irishman as European. It's true that they are both from Europe, but their people have very different histories, cultures, and languages. The same is true of Indians. The Cherokee are vastly different from the Lakota, the Dine, the Kiowa, and the Cree, but they are all labeled Native American. So whenever possible an Indian would prefer to be called a Cherokee or a Lakota or whichever tribe they belong to. This shows respect because not only are the terms Indian, American Indian, and Native American an over simplification of a diverse ethnicity, but you also show that you listened when they told what tribe they belonged to. ... What matters in the long run is not which term is used but the intention with which it is used. "
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by Christina Berry.
of Russel Means.
Written by MARKET WARRIORS production coordinator Margaret Aery.