Thursday, February 17, 2011

Proud to be an "Indian"!

In my three years of living in the US I have come across people from several nationalities, cultures, and ethnic groups. One thing I have noticed is that the people who are the most proud to be "Indian" or "part Indian" are not people from the great nation of India. In fact they are not even remotely connected by family or heritage ties to the nation of India. Can you guess who these people are and why they are claiming to be "Indian"?

Yeah, you guessed it right. These are "White People" or "Euro Americans". I have come across several of these people who are "as white as they get" and they say "I'm 1/8th Cherokee Indian" or "My great-grand father was Navajo Indian," or "I have some Indian ancestry," etc. When I hear such comments I wonder about the rationale of their observations. Knowledge, Education, and technology has connected the world and made it a global village, but have failed in correcting the gross historical mistake in the consciousness of the Euro-Americans... including the Spanish-Americans. When I say Americans here I am talking about the Citizens of all nations of both North and South America.

History is evidence to the fact that Christopher Columbus set out looking for a route to India and thanks to pathetic navigation skills he landed in South America instead of India. The people he saw there he thought they were Indians because he was sure that he reached India. We all know this but over the past five hundred years people have become aware of the stupidity of Columbus, but they haven't felt the need to correct the historical mistake. This includes common people, highly educated academics, government officials, and the people affected.

There are two distinct groups of people who are affected by this false nomenclature or identity tagging. The first of course is the "Native American" or "First Nations" peoples who have their own distinct tribal/ national identity of being a "Cherokee", "Choctaw", "Navajo" or whatever which is completely lost under the common umbrella of "Indian" or "American Indian". Second group which is affected to a greater extent is the real Indians, i.e. people from the world's most spiritually advanced Nation of India. We have been unnecessarily branded as tribal with no refined culture, science, education or nationality by getting equated to these "Native Americans".

It is surprising that there has not been any organized movement from either groups to correct the historical blunder. The Native American people seem comfortable with the identity label of "Indian", as evidenced by the names of their organizations such as "American Indian Chamber of Commerce" "Bureau of Indian Affairs" etc. The people of India are so naive that they don't mind sharing their ethnic identity label with anyone and everyone in the world even if it means accepting a derogatory name, listening to insulting comments and having their ethnicity challenged.

The people who made the mistake don't care because they can't admit that their ancestors were at fault. It hurts their ego. Also by branding people from India as tribal they can assert their own Euro-Supremacist identity and attitude.

I wonder why everyone is silent to this historical blunder. I don't expect anything from academics because they have always historically been involved in finding ways and means to brand India as a nation full of tribal, superstitious, stupid, slave-like peoples. But I am appalled by the way Native Americans have let this identity label be applied to them even in this age of awareness. I wonder why they have not asserted their own national identity. They can stress that their heritage is "Cherokee, Navajo, Apache, Comanche,... etc" instead of adding the "Indian" suffix to their nation's name. By doing so they are actually diluting their own national pride and respect to their nation. People from India, their complacence in handling issues of national identity, civilization pride and respect make me wonder.

I believe that it is high time everyone stepped in to correct this historical blunder and stop being stupid. Teachers, academia, government, media, and most importantly the people should resolve these identity conflicts so everyone can be at peace and not confused.

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