American Indians

American Indians or Native Americans are the indigenous natives of the regions of North America including the continental United States , and parts of Alaska . They are comprised of a large number of tribes, states, and ethnic groups. American Indians are also termed as American Indians, Indians, Amerindians, Amerinds, Indigenous people, Aboriginal or Original Americans, and they are known as First Nations in Canada.

The usage of so many terms gave rise to Native American Name Controversy and thus none of the American Indian names has got universal acceptance. The Native Americans got the term “Indians” from Christopher Columbus who, arriving in the New World mistakenly thought that he had reached the Indies , the original destination of his voyage, and described the natives as “Indians.” Despite Columbus 's mistake, the term “Indian” remained stuck to Americans. The Native Americans have been collectively termed as American Indians for centuries. However, according to some Americans, the problem with the term “American Indians” is that the people of India are also called Indians.

The British English tried to pacify the controversy by using the term “Red Indians” for the natives of North America , but the term is now an old fashioned usage and considered insulting. Some American anthropologists introduced the term “Native Americans” for the indigenous people of the Americas , to distinguish them from the Indian people. Now the people of India who have American citizenship are known as “Indian Americans.”

However, some indigenous American Indians have serious doubts about the term ‘Native American.’ They oppose using the term and reckon that the term was imposed by the government without prior consent of American Indians. Some American Indians feel that the term ‘Native American’ serves to ease the conscience of “white America ” regarding the past injustices done to American Indians by effectively eliminating "Indians" from the present. Some Americans (Indigenous Indians and non-Indians) argue that the term “Native American” is problematic because "native of" literally means "born in," so any person born in the Americas could be considered "native".

A survey conducted in 1996 divulged that majority of American Indians in the US preferred the ‘American Indian’ to ‘Native American.’ Most of the American Indians have no problem with the term ‘Indian,’ and thus the terms, “American Indian” and “Native American” are often used interchangeably. The continuous usage of the term “American Indian” is reflected in the name chosen for the National Museum of the American Indian (Opened in 2004 in Washington , D.C).

Recently, the term “Asian Indian” has been introduced by the Federal Census to more accurately categorize the Indian American population. According to the 2005 Census estimates, the population of American Indian and Alaska Native descent constitutes 1.0% of the US population.

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