Native – Born a particular place. Used to refer to the place where a person was born and raised. – Webster’s Dictionary
The newspaper story said that a former Mitchell athlete, Tucker Volesky, had been accepted into “Native American Political Leadership Program” at George Washington University.
It is quite an honor, and his father, Ron Volesky, a well-known South Dakota politician and attorney, must be beaming over the announcement, as is Tucker’s mother, Tara.
The story serves as another reminder that the term “Native American” has not always been the label of choice for Indians living in South Dakota or elsewhere in the U.S.
After all, any one born in America can properly be called “a native American.” By definition, the word “native” means being of or from a certain place.
I am a “native” South Dakotan and a “native” American because I was born here.
This understanding of the term is one reason why the late Russell Means, who became well known in the 1970s for his activism, objected to its use in characterizing members of his race.
While Means preferred the term “American Indian,” others prefer the use of actual tribal names, such as Lakota or Dakota.
The Associated Press guide to reporting states that “American Indian is the preferred term for those in the United States. Where possible, be precise and use the name of the tribe. . . . Native American is acceptable in quotations and names of organizations.”
The discussion over the preferred name for Indians of this country is similar to the one describing black Americans. That term is still used, but “African American” seems to be more common today.
Any of us could employ a modifier in front of “American” to describe our roots — German American or Norwegian American, for example. But for what purpose, except during cultural events and celebrations?
At the end of the day (as politicians are so fond of saying), we are all Americans.
If we would all refer to ourselves as such, instead of focusing on our differences, race relations would take a giant step forward.
Who wouldn’t favor that?
July 15, 2015