"Indians," "Native Americans," and Tribal Names

In this site, the terms "American Indian," "Native American," "Indian," and "Native" are used interchangeably, but whenever possible the specific traditional tribal names are used. A large survey done more than 20 years ago indicated modern Native people of the U.S. prefer the term "American Indian" over "Native American," however, both terms have wide acceptance among Natives, and "Indian" is also commonly used. The word "American" can be problematic, since it is most commonly used to denote a citizen of the U.S., and most of the Indians discussed here were not U.S. citizens; universal citizenship was not granted until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.

Indians have understandably reestablished use of their traditional tribal names instead of the names historically imposed on them. This is a delicate situation for modern writers, since there often is no unanimity among Indians about what name to use, and the traditional names are often very dissimilar from the familiar historic names. For example, the only tribe with a federally recognized settlement in Iowa is referred to as the "Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa" in U.S. government documents, but the tribe refers to itself as the Meskwaki Nation. Sometimes the historically imposed name is fairly close to the traditional name, such as Santee/Isanti, and there is less controversy about using one name over the other, but, for the sake of uniformity, a choice had to be made. In the case of the Ioway and Missouria, these names were chosen over "Iowa" and "Missouri" to minimize confusion with the states and rivers named after them. Ho-Chunk will be used instead of "Winnebago," Ihanktonwan Dakota instead of "Yankton Sioux," Meskwaki instead of "Fox," Ojibwa instead of "Chippewa," Otoe instead of "Oto" or "Otto," and Sauk instead of "Sac." It should be noted that the traditional name for the Ioway, "B√°xoje" or "Bakhoje," is growing in acceptance, as is the traditional "Umonhon" for Omaha; if these traditional names displace Ioway or Omaha within their communities then the rest of us should follow their preference.