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American Indian / Alaskan Natives

IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT American Indian/Alaskan Native be the first term used to refer to individuals or groups of individuals who are members or descendants of members of American Indian tribes or Alaskan Native villages. The term is appropriate when the name of the specific tribe or Alaskan Native village of the individual is not known to the writer or when the group consists of members of multiple tribes and/or Alaskan Native villages. Each of the words in the American Indian/Alaskan Native terminology should be capitalized.

After the first use of the term American Indian/Alaskan Native, shortened versions may be used: American Indian, Native American, Indian, and Alaskan Native whenever Alaskan Natives (Indian, Inuit, Yupik, Aleut) are included in the subject group. The term Native may be used to refer to American Indians when the meaning is clearly established. If the subject individual and/or group has a known preference for one of these shortened terms, the subject's preferred term should be used. Various American Indian/Alaskan Native individuals and groups have concerns about the appropriateness, connotation, clarity, and the political and historical implications of the various commonly used terms. For example, Native American is a broad term that includes Native Hawaiians and native people of Samoa, in addition to Indians and Alaskan Natives. Many people of many ethnic and racial groups in the United States consider themselves to be native Americans. In the context of the diverse population in our society, the term Native American does not clearly distinguish people from India and American Indians.

Whenever possible, the name of the specific tribe or Alaskan Native village of the individual or group should be used. Variations exist in the exact name, the manner or combining of, and the spelling of names among tribes and villages. The usage and spelling approved by the tribe or village government should be used. Spellings are published by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Reference Encyclopedia of the American Indian (Rye, New York: Todd Publications), and in various tribal publications.

The term Indian should always be capitalized. When the terms tribe, nation, or village are a formal part of the name, they should be capitalized also (e.g., Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Napakiak Native Village). The term Indian Country is generally used by the tribes and the United States government to refer to tribal lands within tribal jurisdiction. Indian Nations is a general term used widely by both the tribes and the federal government.

Indians should not be referred to in the past tense unless explicitly appropriate for the meaning of the sentence. Indians should not be uniformly referred to as "descendants" of American Indians, which implies that all of the real American Indians are dead. Referring to Indian heritage is generally inappropriate as a means of identifying a person as an Indian.

Some unacceptable terms for use in referring to Indians are hostiles, savages, injuns, redskins, skins, breeds, half-breeds, squaws , and papoose.


The Code of Federal Regulation 34 , Chapter 2, Part 250.4 (Nov. 1, 1989).

Statements of nondiscrimination and alternative media.(U.Ed. OVP 06-24(e)
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