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The Indian List: Sh*t They Call Us and Sh*t We Call Ourselves

Native poet and writer Alex Jacobs takes on Native identity, racist mascots, and stereotyping of American Indians in mainstream American culture.
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Editor’s introduction: The Washington Redskins case, the downing of Chief Illini and the Fighting Sioux of the University of North Dakota are only few of the many cases of abuse of Native people’s identity turning us into goofy sports mascots. There are other cases of abuse of our identity, other abusers, government and their agencies, military, class room curriculum, in private discussions, religious and corporate abuse continue to exist.

And, this is important because it has gone far beyond simple racism, simple misunderstanding, simple ignorance we are talking about the American lexicon, the way Americans understand us. And, believe we are not even close to being satisfied how America understands us, as much as America fails to understand us. As much as I have faith in the American people, when it comes to the important issues that affect us, well, it’s like the Americans are lazy, ill-informed and immature. Stuck in a rut that always seems to lead to either court actions or military actions that are hard to rationalize.

What is right and what is wrong, what would be appropriate to call us, what do we call ourselves?

Who has the program booklet, who are the actors and what are their names?

Alex Jacobs, poet, author, former editor of Akwesasne Notes and Akwekon, artist, teacher and Indian world traveler, wrote the following poem for Poetry Slam competitions.

He pretty much nails it—the derogatory, the funny and the for-real names used among Indian lovers and haters. The ancient and the current. Heard anyone of these before?


Los Indios (The Indian List)

(This is what they call us)

Los Indios, Indio, Indian, Indianner, injuns, Americans, American Race, redman, redskin, redstick, redbone, Peaux-rouge, salvage, savage, sauvage, salvaticho, skraelings, wildmen, pagan, heather, infidel, primitive, barbarian, cannibals, Caliban, new world man, sons of another adam.

Red devil, tawny devil, tawnies, darkies, darklings, brownies, greasy heathen, copper-colored, copper-skins, copperhead, red nigger, backward, undeveloped, obstacle to progress, stoic, the plight of the Indian, Indian giver, Indian coffee, sly as an Indian, Indian lover, praying Indians, friendlies, hostiles, renegades, red line of cruelty, bloody border warfare, Indian Country, Indian menace, Indian peril, savage barrier, vanishing Indian, Lo! The poor Indian, Mr. Lo, poor Indian, blanket ass, feather head, le plume, lazy Indian, dumb Indian, playing the dumb Indian, wooden Indian, cigar-store Indian, Indian princess, Indian summer, Indian camp, firewater, debased, debauched, downtrodden, scalp, scalp-lock, scalp-knife, cruel, bloodthirsty, massacre, bury the hatchet, smoke the peace pipe, red children, visit the great white father, the Indian question, the Indian problem, Indian law, American Indian Law, you can not change an Indian, the only good Indian is a dead Indian, nits make lice.

Siwash, chollo, chief, brave, buck, squaw, papoose, gut-eater, dog-eater, puppy-basher, scalp-lifter, hair-lifter, wagon-burner, teepee creeper, wahoo, yahoo, wild as an Indian just off the reservation, working harder than an Indian, ugly as an Indian, meaner than an Indian, Indian Joe, Indian sidekick, Tonto, kemo-sabe, Indian scout, Geronimo, Hiawatha, Kawliga, Minnehaha, Pocahontas, Hollywood Indians, walk Indian file, read Indian sign, Indian head, Indian head-dress, Indian wrestling, Lamanites, Lost Tribe of Israel, el fatalismo del indio, give it back to the Indians, warpath, warpaint, war pony, warrior, timber nigger, prarie nigger, save a fish-spear an Indian, Indian mascots, Indian gurus, spiritual advisors, Indian spirit guides, witch doctor, medicine man, shaman, shamaness, shaman poet, new age Indian, new age tribe, wannabes, wopahoes, gone injun, jumped the reservation Injun, they’ve all gone Indian, my grandmother was an Indian princess, I was an Indian in another life.

(& This is what we call ourselves…)

Metis, mitchif, mestizo, mestizajes, coyotes, lobo, creole, zambo, sambahigos, gente de razon, californiano, gibaro, guajiro, campesino, la raza cosmica, breed, mixed breed, mixed blood, halfblood, halfbreed, half people, owl eyes, full blood, bloods, hoops, skins, chips, joes, 24 hour Indian, pure boy, pure girl, rez bunnies, mongolian tourists, red power, red muslims, AIM guys, AIMSTERS, assholes in moccasins, apples – red on the outside, white on the inside - malinchista, uncle tomahawks, tomahawk rock, heya-heya music, yatahey boys, antelope legs & buffalo hips, rez-mama, rez sisters, FBI’s – Full Blooded Indians - Billy Jacks, peyote eaters, jerky pounders, frybread eaters, scones, bush scones, rez scones, city scones, sconage, (lookin’ jake, pretty goot, Aaaa, buh, weh, CHOWUR, O-WAH), buckskinners, cornplanters, buffalo chasers, rabbit chokers, ghost dancers, sage burners, bingo dabbers, the Casino Clan, Mohogs, Mohacks, man-eaters, Indian cowboy, tourist Indian, government Indian, treaty card Indians, status Indians, non-status Indians, Indian Act Indians, I’m just a poor Indian, I’m just a dumb Indian, commodity Indian, commod bods, skinjins, roas allowance people, leave the blanket, buckskin curtain, corporate Indian, New Deal Indians, sell-outs, progressives, traditional, Real Indians, Euro-Indians, Amerinos, indigen, indigenes, indigenous, autochtones, naturals, Natural Americans, native, Native Americans, Native North American, Native North American Indian, American Indian, Amerindian, aboriginal, abos, OP’s, original peoples, original inhabitants, Original Americans, American Originals, First Americans, First Nations, Fourth World. It’s turtles all the way down.

Alex A. Jacobs (Karoniaktahke) is a Mohawk visual and performing artist, living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He won a 1995 NYS Foundation on the Arts Poetry Fellowship and the 2006 Best in Classification & Division for Painting/Graphics at the Santa Fe Indian Market. His most recent project is "GOT YOUR BACK" a spoken word/music CD with Mohawk poet Janet Marie Rogers (Ojistah Publishing) and music by his son DJ Duran Flint.

1992. Reprinted with the permission of the author.