Steven Newcomb: Accept no less than nationhood for our people

Steven Newcomb discusses the nationhood of tribes and their governments:
Those of us who trace our lives to the original existence of the free nations of North America (Great Turtle Island), and who use the English language on a daily basis, face a challenging task. We have to decide which English words and metaphors will be the most accurate way to think, talk, and write about ourselves, and our collective existence. Are we Nations, Tribes, States, or something else? And what frame of reference shall we use to answer such a question?

True, we can use our own names: Kumeyaay, Chumash, Cahuila, Shawnee, Lenape, Hopi, Navajo, Lakota, Cree, etc. That is a simple matter. The challenge is deciding how to best communicate to others, particularly the dominating society, about our political identity as distinct peoples, especially as against the political identity of “the state.”

It is no secret that I prefer to apply the terms “nation” and “nations” to our peoples because those are the English words with the most political clout, other than the word “state.” Political officials of the United States demonstrate this point by preferring to apply the word “nation” to the United States. They call the United States a “nation,” not a “tribe,” or “tribal nation.”

Get the Story:
Steven Newcomb: How the English Language Betrays Us (Indian Country Today 11/6)

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