Peonies in my garden
Cathy over at https://cranethie.wordpress.com wrote an interesting response to a comment I made about tea from West India:
LOL Dianne – when I saw ‘West Indian’ I thought you meant from the islands in the Caribbean! I always relate Darjeeling to Bengal which of course is in the west of India 🙂
When I worked for the U.S. Census Bureau on ethnic statistics we had great difficulty enumerating the people many once referred to as “Indians.” Finally, the Bureau began to use tribal names for those who wished to have this designation.
You see, many Indians from Asia, who think of themselves as American Indians also had a problem with this designation.
Other than a tribal name (what individuals called themselves), what could one call the “first peoples”?
“Native American” doesn’t work because many people who are descended from the indigenous population are also Black, White and Asian, racially speaking.
Also, how long does an ancestry line in a locale have to be to make one a “native”?
For example, one of my ancestral lines goes back to 1620 (came with the first pilgrims from Europe) and I think of myself as a native American.
Many people from Latin America and Canada, descended from Spaniards or French or Dutch who migrated to the “New World” in the sixteenth century, think of themselves as “Native Americans.” Many Canadiens and Latin Americans are also Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Japanese, Indian (from India), German and “American Indian” descent.
Many people with ancestral roots that run deep into the ‘Americas’, especially from places like Oaxaca, the Yukon or Appalachia think of themselves as “Native Americans.”
And then there’s the problem of citizenship status.
Many of the descendants of more recent immigrant arrivals are citizens because being born in the U.S. or a U.S. outlying areas like Puerto Rico or the Marianas for example, confers U.S. citizenship whatever your parents status.
Conversely, being born abroad of one U.S. citizen parent confers citizenship (think of the children of U.S. personnel abroad), even if your parent was an immigrant and returned to his or her place of origin after having acquired U.S. citizenship (think of U.S. naturalized citizen service personnel in the Middle East).
I’ll stop there because this problem gets more and more convoluted. As one of my colleagues liked to put it, “This is a real can of worms.”
This next comment is directed to political junkies: The next time you hear someone make a comment about someone’s citizenship status (Cruz or Obama, for example), think twice before you punch them in the face.
And Cathy, now you know why Americans (a confused lot) began calling the islands off Florida the Caribbean (after the Carib Indians who no longer exist) and not the West Indies. Of course we still don’t know how to pronounce it.