Immigrants came to these shores bearing a legacy of languages, all to be cherished. But to become native to this place, if we are to survive here, and our neighbors too, our work is to learn to speak the grammar of animacy, so that we might truly be at home.
- Braiding Sweetgrass, Learning the Grammar of Animacy (p.58).
"Animacy, or the distinction between animate and inanimate entities, is so pervasive in the grammars of human languages that it tends to be taken for granted and become invisible."
Ojibwe Indians building a wigwam at Mille Lacs Trading Post, ca 1920. Copyright: Minnesota Historical Society
"The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary was established by faculty and students in the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota [...]. You can [...] meet the Ojibwe speakers whose words and voices reach out to you through this dictionary. Each audio clip in the dictionary is marked with a speaker's initials and linked to their photos and biographies on the Ojibwe Voices page."
Words matter and show understanding.
There is terminology that should and shouldn't be used when discussing or referring to Native Americans. This a very short list of frequently used terminology.
According to the Native American Journalism Association, either is acceptable when referring to two or more people with different tribal affiliations.
Indian Country is legally defined in Title 18 of the U.S. Code as any land within the limits of an Indian reservation, all independent Indian communities within U.S. borders, and all Indian allotments. It is also used to describe any Native-occupied space. The National Congress of American Indians offers, "[w]hen used appropriately, Indian Country takes on a powerful meaning, legally and symbolically, for all tribal nations. Indian Country is wherever American Indian spirit, pride, and community are found."
Many organizations offer definitions of Indigenous or Indigenous peoples -- the United Nations, the World Bank, the World Health Organization. The Native American Journalism Association reminds writers to capitalize the I when referring to Indigenous peoples or nations to distinguish from informal uses of indigenous plants. animals, or flowers.
Per the U.S. Justice Department, "Recognition" is a legal term meaning that the United States recognizes a government-to-government relationship with a Tribe and that a Tribe exists politically in a "domestic dependent nation" status. Federally-recognized Tribes possess certain inherent powers of self-government and entitlement to certain federal benefits, services, and protections because of the special trust relationship.
Currently there are 574 federally recognized tribes. In addition, there are tribes that are recognized by states that may not be federally recognized. The National Council of State Legislatures provides a list of federally and state recognized tribes.
Tribal sovereignty refers to Native American rights to self govern. The National Congress of American Indians offers information about tribal governance.
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