Verbal Chaos -- Naming the Original Inhabitants of Canada
In a BBC News story on an uprising by the original inhabitants of Canada, the headline read "Canada natives in day of protests." In the first paragraph, the term "aboriginals" was used. In the second paragraph, we find both "indigenous people" and "First Nations," which I will cheerfully admit has me baffled. There is a later reference to "native protesters" and then "First Nations groups." Then comes another reference to "First Nations" and "indigenous groups."
The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, an umbrella group representing Canada's indigenous groups, has called for peaceful and non-disruptive protests.Reading down further we find a use of "native protester" and then "aboriginal ancestry."
So, the first inhabitants of Canada (that we know about) are alternatively "natives," "aboriginals," "indigenous people" and members or citizens of "First Nations." This verbal blizzard cannot be a good thing. It suggests that journalists are in deadly fear of the PC police. Sadly, what these uses of language signal most is that there exist for Canadians a set of people who are seen as "not one of us." Perhaps that is how the native, aboriginal, indigenous members of First Nations in Canada feel about the rest of the Canadian population -- they are "not us."
I came to reading this story after reading another on violence between the Lebanese army and "protesters" who claim that all they wanted to do is get back to their "refugee camps." Quite remarkably, it seems that
Lebanon has 12 refugee camps housing more than 350,000 Palestinians. They are people who fled or were forced to leave their homes when Israel was created in 1948, or their descendants.I am guessing that by now that we have some three generation families in these camps where one could speak of first generation refugee, second generation refugee, and etc.
In the case of the Palestinian refugees there seems to be just one name but the situations between the native, aboriginal, indigenous members of First Nations in Canada and the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is quite similar. Both seem to live in camps. And both are groups of refugees. I suspect that the the native, aboriginal, indigenous members of First Nations in Canada could leave their reservations if they wanted to and go to live wherever they wanted. I don't know whether or not this is true of the Palestinian refugees though it is clear they can leave the camps if only temporarily.
In 2003, the BBC had a web story on American Indians in which we do not find quite the same level of linguistic variation. In this story, the people in question were called Indians or American Indians or Native Americans. In 1999, the BBC web site had a story titled "North American Indians to pool resources." In this story, reference is made to a meeting of what collectively are called "North American Indians." Of some interest is that the BBC makes reference to "indigenous people" who came from elsewhere around the world and it was observed that "aboriginal leaders" from around the world hoped to form political partnerships. I suspect the writer(s) didn't have a clue how exactly to refer to these others.
It is clear that Americans (i. e., the people of the USA) have settled on an agreed term for referring to the original inhabitants of the country, namely "Indian" and that this term is used by both Indians and non-Indians. I have no way of knowing who writes the Canadian stories for the BBC but I would imagine Canadians do this. The question I would raise is why there is so much variation in the linguistic references. Does it reflect a lingering guilt by other Canadians or what?