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Monday, July 16, 2007

A Note on the Language I Use

The name Arawak was first used by Europeans to describe us (we didn’t use it to name ourselves). The Arawaks of the Greater Antilles developed a distinct culture that some believe is related to what is now called Taíno – which is different from the original Arawak culture and also different from that of the Caribs of the Lesser Antilles. At the time of the arrival of Columbus, there were several Nations living in the Caribbean on the many islands and most spoke Arawakan languages. Some descendents now identify themselves by Nation-Language (ie: Taíno-Arawak).

At this time, I am comfortable using the word Arawak to describe myself, particularly since it is not confused with another group, like the word Indian. I am also multiracial and multicultural. Although I can move between and within several worlds including American, German, and Native, no matter what my “blood” looks like, my spirit is 100% Native American. I have grown up learning Northeast Woodland customs from nations such as the Wampanoag because I live on their land in Massachusetts. I have also learned both Arawak and Taíno traditions and personally use the words interchangeably for that reason.

I would also like to acknowledge the long-standing difficulty in selecting a group term to describe the Indigenous Peoples of North and South America. American Indian and Indian both have controversies related to the history of European colonization and imposition of names. Native American is problematic because all people who are born in the United States are native to the country. There are other terms, such as First Nations People that are used in countries like Canada, but they are less frequently used in the United States. I have chosen to use Native American because that is the term I use to identify myself unless specifically referring to my particular Nation and heritage (Arawak). It is also the term that, in my experience, is most commonly used and accepted in my region of the country.

Article - Indian, Native American, American Indian, or Something Else? What word should I use?
Sequoya, Sequoyah, Sequoia?

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