Steven Newcomb: Colonizing language adopted by Indians

"In English grammar we find pronouns for first person (“I’), second person (“you”), and third person plural (“we”). I’d like to add focus on the colonizing possessive adjective “our,” which occurs when an Indian person uses the “we” or “our,” when talking about the United States.

An example is an Indian person speaking of the United States, and saying: “Well, when we invaded Iraq…” etc. Another example would be an Indian person referring to the President of the United States as “our president.”

Chad Yazzie used the colonizing possessive adjective in a recent column about the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. In his column, Mr. Yazzie says of the U.S. Constitution: “Our constitutional framework appoints federalism as a principle to measure and define the range of governmental authority that states and the federal government exercise with respect to one another.”

As an Indian person and a citizen of the Navajo Nation, the question arises: “Why did Mr. Yazzie unthinkingly use a colonizing term by referring to the U.S. Constitution as “our” constitutional framework?” When did it ever become “ours” as Indian nations and peoples?"

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: On the Use of Colonizing Language (Indian Country Today 9/13)

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