It has always been a personal pet peeve of mine when Native Americans are referred to as "Indians." It has nothing to do with respect for Native Americans or political correctness; it is entirely about actual correctness. Calling them Indians means having to actually differentiate between Indians, from the subcontinent of India, and Indians, from the Americas. It seems like laziness is the biggest factor. It is far easier to say and write/type "Indian" than "Native American." But, my History teacher and even my textbook both use the word "Indian." Is this really acceptable practice in higher education (it's my freshman year)? Is it accepted in academia in general?

  • 2
    in academic contexts? Only when citing period references.
    – keshlam
    May 1, 2015 at 22:53
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it should be migrated to the English language site.
    – jakebeal
    May 2, 2015 at 0:46
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    @jakebeal Is how the academic community views this not relevant. If so, then fine. However, I certainly disagree it belongs in the English language site. I don't care how English majors see this issue. My concern is with academia at large.
    – Jimmy G.
    May 2, 2015 at 2:53
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    @JimmyG. I don't think academics have any particular difference from the rest of the world in this case.
    – jakebeal
    May 2, 2015 at 2:55
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    This is actually a really contentious issue. If there's any (small) difference between academia and the rest of the world, it's that academia particularly cares about using the terms people self-identity with, especially for groups that could be considered marginalized. The difficulty is that people disagree about which terms are preferable. Some strongly prefer American Indian to Native American; some feel oppositely; some don't much like either term and prefer to be described as a member of a particular nation.
    – Anonymous Mathematician
    May 2, 2015 at 3:38

1 Answer 1


It certainly is unusual, and constitutes a red flag. Take a close look at the book, and listen carefully to the teacher, to see if the ideas are problematic as well.

Hopefully there is an office of diversity on campus you can bring this problem to, if you see some areas of concern.

  • 1
    It's not that simple, except perhaps among some in the (mostly Anglo) Northeastern chattering classes.
    – choster
    May 4, 2015 at 4:08
  • OK. But this answer seems to be based on an unexamined supposition that the word "Indian" is itself inherently problematic. But for people who aren't themselves Indian, rather than deciding on their own if this is an area of concern, it'd be better to ask people who actually are Indian/Native American if they think the usage is a problem. The OP probably doesn't even know for sure if the teacher or the author is themselves Indian/Native American, so it would be pretty presumptuous to try to correct them on their terminology based on only their own "pet peeve" about the word.
    – herisson
    May 4, 2015 at 6:47

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