FLORIDA, April 1, 2013 — The times are changing, but the culture war drags on with no end in sight. Year after year, we hear the same rhetoric from different faces on opposing sides of tired hot-button issues. For all of the hullabaloo, though, the opinions of one key demographic group are almost never brought into consideration.
This group is the Native Americans, or as many proudly call themselves, American Indians.
David Yeagley has been doing much to change this. The great-great-grandson of Comanche dignitary Bad Eagle, he has been called “an American Indian Leonardo DiVinci”. Bringing his work as “an author, scholar, classical composer, concert musician, (and) portrait artist” into the equation, this should come as no surprise.
In this first part of our discussion, Yeagley explains why he prefers the term “American Indian” and feels contempt for “Native American, if he thinks the concept of political correctness is compatible with American Indian culture, and whether or not he believes that multiculturalism is popular among American Indians.
Joseph F. Cotto: Political correctness has labeled indigenous Americans as “Native American” rather than “American Indian”. Which classification do you prefer?
Dr. David A. Yeagley: The origin of “Native American” is a bit uncertain, but it seems to have evolved from the campus scene, having to do with “classification” of non-white students.
Without hesitation, on the reservations, and among most Indians, “American Indian” is preferable. We are not “Native.” “Native” implies “savage” in the pejorative sense, or “indigenous,” which sounds like a disease, nor are we any other such non-specific peoples in the Third World globe that are simply not white.
These catch-all terms are denigrating to Indians. We alone are named in the Declaration of Independence, and in the Constitution. No other non-white people, from anywhere, share that incredible dignity. I will not share it, nor will any other Indian who is informed.
“Native American” is a liberal inclusive ploy now, to “redistribute” our inimitable honor to any and all other non-white people. As Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute’s “Native Film” program recently demonstrated, all indigenous peoples of the Americas (North, Central, South), Pacific Islanders. Asians, Africans, and even homosexuals, were included in the effort. Sundance bragged about it.
“Native” obviously represented one big brown bowel movement of the Third World. Anyone who wasn’t white was honored ‒ in the name of “Native American.” It was a outrageous travesty. I protested vehemently, and since then, they have toned down the “inclusive” effort, at least in word. (They even removed their celebratory YouTube from the internet.)
“Native American,” while faddish, and perhaps comforting to “oppressed” Indians, it is completely inaccurate. We were not “American.” We were our own nations. Any person, born in America, is “Native American.” For such a concept to lack that basic meaning here in America, and yet maintain it elsewhere in the world, is a piquant irony.
“American Indian” is the only legal, historical, and honorable name to call Indians, unless we go by our own tribal names, which is usually “the people” in our own language. Dine in Navajo. Numunu in Comanche, etc. For all practical purpose in the American public and in American society, “American Indian” is preferable and necessary.
Now we have a major problem with the Hindu people who have migrated to America. They expect to be called “Indian.” Historically, they are Hindu, which means “river” in ancient Sanskrit. It does not designate a religion at all. I call people from Indian Hindu, not “Indian.” I cannot have a foreign group come over here and obscure our identity or rob us further. Just do a search on “Indian” and you find dominate Hindu references.
Cotto: In your opinion, is the concept of political correctness compliant with traditional Native American, or American Indian, culture?
Dr. Yeagley: Not really. Different tribes called each other by different names. Usually, each tribe ended up with a name some other tribe called them. Often, it was a European given name, as in Sioux, Coeur d’alene, Cheyenne (all French). Even when it came to personal names, they changed. It was a fluid thing, nomenclature.
But, since the wars ended, and Indians developed an image in white society, things were frozen. Our names became like our traditions. We’re not into the “legalistic” liberal vein of manipulating or usurping words. Indians weren’t politically correct at all. We had a sense of humor, and name calling was great sport.
Cotto: Many people would probably believe that Native Americans/American Indians approve of multiculturalism due to the differences between tribal societies and Anglospheric ones. Do you find this to be the case?
Dr. Yeagley: There are Indians who, educated in liberal schools, with liberal professors, seem to accept multiculturalism. But this is an dangerous illusion—for them, as well as onlookers. Indians have had to live with white culture.
That is enough.
Some Indians are naturally curious about anyone’s culture. (We were too naive and curious about white culture to start with!). But, as I see it, people from around the world come here and often want to find an Indian woman and marry. This makes them feel more American or something?
This is devastating to Indian people, however. There are too few of us. Everyone wants a piece of us, but there are not enough of us to go around. This intermarriage is going to thin us out to nothing. I’m against it. I’m for preserving the last of our blood lines.Without the blood, being Indian will become a social club, which anyone can join. It will become a fairly meaningless term.Click here for reuse options!
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