Native Americans


These items are from the Native American Journalists Association‘s “100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America.” You can get all 100 questions by ordering a print or digital guide from Amazon.

Who is an American Indian?
How many American Indians and Natives are there?”
Where did American Indians come from originally?
Why are native peoples called Indians?”
Which is correct: American Indian or Native American?
Aren’t American Indians pretty much the same?
How many tribes are there?
Are Indians American U.S. citizens?
Is there an organization that represents tribal interests?
What is an Indian reservation?
What are Alaska Natives?
What are treaties?
What is cultural misappropriation?
Are American Indian languages dying out?
Is there an American Indian religion?
How can a person trace his or her Indian ancestry?
Do Native Americans pay taxes?
Who regulates Indian casinos?
What is a tribal school?
Why do American Indians object to the team name “Redskins”?


Who is an American Indian?
There are millions of people who identify as American Indian or who have Indian ancestry. That does not make them all American Indians in the eyes of tribes or the federal government. The federal government considers someone American Indian if he or she belongs to a federally recognized tribe. Individual tribes have the exclusive right to determine their own membership. Tribal governments formally list their members, who must meet specific criteria for enrollment. Some require a person to trace half or quarter of his or her lineage, for instance, to the tribe, while others require only proof of descent. Back to Top


How many American Indians and Natives are there?
There were 2.9 million according to the U.S. Census for 2010, and the number was growing. They represent roughly 1 percent of the overall population. Before Europeans arrived in North America, Native Americans may have numbered as many as 10 million. By the time colonists began keeping records, the population was substantially less, ravaged by war, famine, forced labor and disease from Europeans. The population is young and growing steadily. The American Indian and Alaska Native population increased by 83,250 from July 1, 2006 to July 1, 2007. The U.S. Census projects that the American Indian and Alaska Native population will reach 8.6 million by 2050. That is up from previous forecasts. Back to Top


Where did American Indians come from originally?
Many believe that Native peoples originated on this continent, and most tribes have their own creation story. Meanwhile, many anthropologists also have theorized that Indians traveled about 35,000 years ago across a land bridge spanning the Bering Strait from Asia to North America. Back to Top


Why are native peoples called Indians?
Indigenous people in the United States were first referred to as Indians because Columbus believed he had reached the East Indies when he touched the shores of North America. Today, many Native people prefer to call themselves American Indian to avoid stereotypes associated with Indian. “Native American” and “Native” are also acceptable terms and preferred by some. It is always best to refer to Native people by their specific tribe or nation. Back to Top


Which is correct: American Indian or Native American?
Either term is generally acceptable, although individuals may have a preference. Native American gained traction in the 1960s for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Over time, Native American has been expanded to include all native peoples of the continental United States and some in Alaska. (Native American and American Indian are used interchangeably in this guide.) Back to Top


Aren’t American Indians pretty much the same?
No. Indian tribes are as different, for example, as the Irish and Italian. Individual tribes have their own culture, language and tradition. Many groups may be strangers to one another. Some were once enemies. Back to Top


How many tribes are there?
In 2014, there were more than 560 federally recognized tribes in the United States, according to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is required to publish a list every year. This includes more than 225 native villages in Alaska. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Navajo Nation are the largest tribes. Back to Top


Are Indians American U.S. citizens?
Yes. Indians have dual citizenship as tribal members and as American citizens. Congress extended citizenship to American Indians in 1924. Back to Top


Is there an organization that represents tribal interests?
There are many. The largest is the National Congress of American Indians. It was founded on principles that include protecting tribal sovereignty and rights. The Native American Rights Fund champions issues of sovereignty, human rights and government accountability that go before the nation’s courts. And the Native American Journalists Association evaluates and supports free press efforts in Indian Country as well as the fair and accurate representation of Native Americans in the news media. The American Indian Movement, an activist group, was founded in 1968 to promote civil rights for Native Americans through sit-ins and highly visible protests. AIM is still active. Back to Top


What is an Indian reservation?
Indian reservations are areas of land reserved by the federal government as permanent tribal homelands. The United States first established its reservation policy for American Indians in 1787. Today, there are 314 reservations among the last, large tracts of private lands. Back to Top


What are Alaska Natives?
Alaska Natives are Eskimo (Inupait and Yupik), Alaskan Indians (Athabascan, Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian) and Aleut. They are culturally distinct and prefer to be called Alaska Native instead of being grouped as American Indian. Back to Top


What are treaties?
From 1777 to 1871, U.S. relations with Indian nations were negotiated through legally binding agreements called treaties. These treaties, or agreements, between tribal governments and the United States transferred and created property rights as well as service obligations. There were 371 treaties signed with American Indian tribes, usually to gain rights to their land. The treaties often promised Indians protection, goods, services, self-governing rights, health care and a tribal homeland in exchange for cooperation and vast tracts of land. Back to Top


What is cultural misappropriation?
This is when people claim an ancestry or culture that is not their own. At its heart, it means someone is not being authentic or is taking something that does not belong to them. Such accusations arose when Johnny Depp played Tonto in “The Lone Ranger.” Some also questioned the claim of Indian ancestry by Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. This term can also mean using cultural or sacred symbols on costumes or decoration. Cultural appropriation can happen with any group. Back to Top


Are American Indian languages dying out?
Yes. More than a third are spoken only by elders and may not survive to the next generation, according to “The Handbook of North American Indians: Language.” Some languages are known to just two or three speakers. Back to Top


Is there an American Indian religion?
There are many Native American traditions and beliefs among the more than 500 tribes. In many tribes, beliefs are an integral part of daily life and are not consider part of a religion reliant on an institution for worship. Prayers have taken a variety of forms, including songs and dances and acts such as sprinkling tobacco or corn meal. In the 19th century, Native Americans lost many of their religious customs as colonists forced them to convert to Christianity. Colonists sent Native children to mission schools and banned some Indian ceremonies. Back to Top


How can a person trace his or her Indian ancestry?
The first step is basic genealogical research to obtain specific information on ancestors’ names, birth dates, marriages and deaths, and places where they lived. The next step is to find out if ancestors are on official tribal rolls. For information, write to the National Archives and Records Administration, Natural Resources Branch, Civil Archives Division, 8th and Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20408. After determining tribal heritage, individuals should contact individual tribes to learn about membership. Tribes have the final determination on who qualifies. Back to Top


Do Native Americans pay taxes?
They pay the same taxes as everyone else with the following exceptions: Native Americans employed on reservations do not pay state income taxes. American Indians living on trust land are free from local and state property taxes. Generally, state sales taxes are not levied on Indian transactions made on reservations. Indians do not pay federal income taxes on money earned from trust lands, such as fees received for grazing rights and oil drilling. Back to Top


Who regulates Indian casinos?
The National Indian Gaming Commission, established by Congress, oversees bingo operations, casinos and certain other types of gambling on tribal land. It sets rules for licensing, reviews yearly audits, and approves ordinances that tribes develop to run gaming operations. The U.S. Departments of Treasury, Justice and Interior have authority over aspects of Indian gaming. Indian nations, as well, have their own gaming commissions, tribal police forces and court systems. Back to Top


What is a tribal school?
Since the early 1800s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs assumed responsibility for the education of children on reservations through Indian schools. In 1978, the federal government began turning over school control to the tribes, while still providing oversight and funding. The bureau funds or operates 187 schools and serves 50,000 students. Back to Top


Why do American Indians object to the team name “Redskins”?
The word is an overtly racist term that can be compared to the N-word. Using tribal names and Native American images as team names or mascots is also an issue. Indian mascots can trivialize Native heritage, perpetuate stereotypes or encourage mocking cheers and behaviors. The team name goes beyond that, given its overtly racist history. Some media outlets have stopped using the name. The Native American Journalists Association supports that. Back to Top

One Response to Native Americans

  1. angel santiago saltamontes says:

    Maybe you’ve heard the results of surveys (which liberals ordinarily use to catapult the most improbable, nonsensical, creepy stuff into LAW) showing the vast, vast majorities of Native Americans “support the retention” of the Redskins name—indeed, that we APPRECIATE it and are PROUD OF IT as an identifier for ourselves as well as for this team WE ASKED (see history of the name, anybody?) to bear the name. Somewhere between 70 and 90 percent, and that’s in surveys of large numbers, across varying & pretty representative demographics, and well documented and analyzed. Young, old Urban, rural. Rez, which gets leftists all twiggly. College-educated (which likewise is a totem—yes, i said TOTEM!!) for libs) and “less-educated” (as libs would put it). YOU ACADEMIC KNOW-IT-ALLS, you INSENSITIVE, FAKE-FEELING “progressives” NEVER ASK when you put on your war paint (sorry, just gotta dig ya, ya phonies) and “do battle” “on behalf of” whoever’s been unlucky enough to incur your “friendship” followed by your patronizing “advocacy”. Strictly as to this issue: the team name was chosen by a great number of then-players and staff, to honor its great Native American coach, who SUGGESTED making “Redskins” the team name when all the guys referred to first here (& sorry, it was just guys, no gals, no transanythings) asked him how they could honor him. Pretty straightforward (& if you’re upset by the “straight” there just get over it). Of course, and no doubt, all were led by the “improper dialectic” of the world they lived in. Well, excuuuuuse me, trust-fund babies, never-worked-a-day academics, “social justice” weedheads; i guess youuuuu transcend everything.
    You are buttinskys, to use white man tongue. Speaking of tongues, you are them who speak with (THIS is so boring), yes, the fork-ed ones. Fork you!
    You liberals are so funny, so funny i take care for my young ones to keep my young ones protected against you; & you’ll note i didn’t say “protected from” but “against”. You can use your muffled, couched, padded words-that-lie. You’ve become parodic, and in doing that have helped ME “indoctrinate” my youngsters. As they become older and can follow ideas, you bet (at one of our casinos!—and BTW: “Indian Gaming”: is THAT “racist”, or what? I have NOT been able to explain to any of my sisters or brothers, nor they to me, the sense or logic or “human right” that puts a rawhide tie around the red men and the slot machines. I GET it, it’s a “guilt offering” or something, but where in Voltaire do these converge? One more reason liberals are laughable LONG AS THEY DON’T HAVE POWER.)—to finish my point, cuz it’s important to ME & you’re so patronizing to us crazy horses: as the young kinds begin to see the world & see that one thing leads to others, i explain carefully at each turn of the day. But before they’re that old, i teach them what YOU have demonstrated about YOURSELVES: that YOU worship WORDS, and you TRULY ARE THE DEVILS. I teach my kids to LISTEN, and WATCH, and i ASK them what they find. Invariably they tell me “they say nice things but then they hurt/steal/whatever”. I ask these CHILDREN then, what they THINK. I don’t think i need to write a whole lot more here, because though you’ll never admit it on your empty TV shows you know what i’m talking about and occasionally may admit it to yourselves: your manipulation of language has ceased to be a stealth thing (i think because you all fell into the sin of pride) and as much as you provide comic value with your infinitely smaller fiddles with words that just shows you’ve taken your own bait. “Microaggression”? “cisgenderment”? Go ahead, white racists and black racists and fools all, keep playing with WORDS. A first rule of life is to not get caught in your own hype. You’re caught, enthralled by your reflections in each other’s faces: “we’re so smart/caring/superior!” I teach my kids to LEARN WELL not WHAT you say, but FROM WHAT you say. You’re not the boss of them, and you will not be.
    This country, just to limit this to the United States to keep from getting into wider topics, is peopled by folk from all over this planet in a way no other is. We have all, generally, been made better by this polyglot, at least as we have learned from one another. (You notice i use the word “learn” a lot here? You scared?) My kids and i are proud Redskins. We’re proud the word “Redskin” is used as a name of pride in so many places by so many people of all kinds, to name everything from teams to teabags—until leftist liberalism came along. All you do is spoil the parties (the pow-wows?). As the recent polls ought at least to “imply” to you snots, and as they SHOUT to anyone else, ALMOST EVERY “NATIVE AMERICAN” WANTS THE FOOTBALL TEAM—and any other endeavor—TO KEEP THE “REDSKINS” NAME. Most white folks, too, but i know that unlike me, unlike people YOU haven’t POISONED, you hate white people and disregard their opinions. Since i’m a red man, you’ll listen to me—huh?
    You almost give thinking a bad name—ALMOST. I realize you use words, a gift of the Great Spirit, to deceive, in order to have what is false, believed. With that i know you are against the Great Spirit. If you take away our word, “Redskins”, it is because you leftist liberals are of evil spirit. I, we, still have the Spirit. You have the emptiness of the evil heart, and in your hands are only words and death.
    In these polls, we gave our opinions. We didn’t ask for permission. Of course YOU’RE going to get our name changed, and that will be one more proof of who you are. I’d be sorry if my “pride” came from hassling people. There gonna be a team named after you someday? How about “Conversationalists”? “Justice Warriors?” “Faeries”? You’ll sell a lotta t-shirts. At your games y’all be snapping your fingers, i guess, cuz clapping (and war whoops!) are “triggers”. Go ahead, it’s your language. Take it.
    And i’ll be wearing my Redskins shirt, on my red skin.

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