Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Indigenous Peoples?

I sympathize with the people who want to replace "aboriginal" with "indigenous".
This perspective is not a unique one. Often members of a Nation prefer to be called by their self-chosen names, but respecting self-identification becomes complicated when naming a Canada-wide celebration – like National Aboriginal History Month, for example. It poses a challenge because these country-wide celebrations need to be dedicated to all Indigenous Peoples in Canada. We can’t call it “Inuit History Month” or “Anishinabek History Month” because then the celebration would only recognize these specific communities. But at the same time, using “Aboriginal” falls short in recognizing all Nations in a respectful way. So, what do we do?
On the other hand, if we have to keep revising our vocabulary and definitions that should be a powerful hint to us that it is our thinking that is muddled in the first place. And why do these terms always get capitalized? Does "Indigenous Peoples" mean something that "indigenous peoples" does not?

To put it bluntly, what people are looking for is a blanket term to describe a number of groups who have not much in common. They want this term to bring all the members together while respecting their individuality. And, just in case that isn't daunting enough, they want to leave the people they are describing with this term completely free to define themselves while simultaneously insisting that whatever definition they come up with must be a group definition and not an individualistic one.

Oh yeah, the term also has to be exclusionary in that Quebecois people don't qualify but Metis kinda do.

Is there any reason to believe this trick can be done?

Your identity, whatever you take it to be, should be enabling. It should allow you opportunities to flourish. The people who shifted from "Indian" to "Native", then from "Native" to "Aboriginal", and now are attempting to move us from "Aboriginal" to "Indigenous"are building traps for the people they claim to want to help. (The same problem applies to the shift from "sex" to "gender".)

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