Don Marks: Native people reclaim their identity through names

Photo from Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs / Facebook

Don Marks of Grassroots News explores the many terms used to describe Native people in Canada and the United States:
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) ha​s​ been joined by Anishinabek of Ontario, representing 42 First Nations, in rejecting the name "aboriginal."

The AMC, which passed a resolution not to deal with organizations that use the name "aboriginal" a couple years back, might want to inform the Anishinabek that the term aboriginal hasn't been easy to shed.

It's an English word​, and it's​ not what they call themselves. Most people assume the word aboriginal means "the first inhabitants" or "from the beginning."

But the root meaning of the word​ ​"ab" is a Latin prefix that means "away from" or "not." And so aboriginal can mean "not original."

The issue here is not so much about a word as it is about reclaiming identity. In a spiritual and cultural sense, names like aboriginal deprive the people of their own identity and force them to adopt a new one.

Identity is defined by language and words. The focus on efforts to reclaim identity has been on what name should be used to refer to the people as a group. But the answer to this remains perplexing.

Get the Story:
Don Marks: What's in a name: Indian, native, aboriginal or indigenous? (CBC 10/2)

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