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Indian giver

Posted by ESC on October 21, 2002

In Reply to: Indian giver posted by Edward Stansell on October 21, 2002

: : : : : : : It meant someone who gave something then wanted it back.

: : : : : : : Just guessing, but with this meaning, p'raps it stems from the fact that certain Amerind cultures have a vastly different notion of property ownership than EuroAm culture.

: : : : : : : "I want to grow wheat on this field."
: : : : : : : "Sure go ahead."
: : : : : : : Next year the tribe is encamped there.
: : : : : : : "You said I could grow wheat here."
: : : : : : : "Yes and you did. Now I am spending the summer here."

: : : : : : If you want to know what the American Indians, whom you all acknowledge are the source of this phrase,consider its meaning to be. Ask one. Who should know better than they, the true meaning of Indian giver?. You will find, as I have, that it stems from the white man giving to the Indian, only to take back the gift when it suited him to do so. This happened countless times, in land (which ironically the Indian already owned), in material gifts, and in promises.
: : : : : : ES

: : : : : It really does depend on which American Indian you ask, most have never heard of the phrase.

: : : : I grew up with Ed's understanding of the meaning and have subsequently questioned all my relatives (none of whom are American Indians but live in close proximity to many) who share the same understanding. I think it's just possible there could be regional differences in how it's understood.

: : : It is not regional.
: : : While it's true that the European settlers had a far worse reputation when it came to trustworthiness than the Indians did, the victors in history usually get to make up the idioms, so it's doubtful that "Indian giver" refers to the manner in which the settlers treated the Indians. It would be a quite a stretch to credit 19th century European settlers with the honesty to have recognized that they, and not the Indians, were the "Indian givers" in most cases.
: : : ---from the Word Detective

: :
: : Bobo is a term coined by David Brooks, author of the book, Bobo's in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How they Got There. He argues that the artists and intellectuals of the 60's have melded with the bourgeois, yuppy types of the 80's to form a new ruling elite he calls Bourgeois Bohemians. It's a very funny and thought provoking point. The fact that political correctness in language and all other things has become so mainstream is, according to Brooks, bound up with the rise of the Bobos.

: : It is an interesting point about the victors writing history. It's just interesting how the self same victors are busy reprising history and rerepresenting it in a politically correct way. So we might well see certain phrases dropped, such as those TheFallen points to in his "Black Mark" post or perhaps reinterpreted in the way this phrase seems to be.

: I don't think that it so much stems from the conduct of 19th century European settlers as much as it does from the conduct of the U.S. Government and its agents toward the American Indian. I believe that the most notable example of this is the wholesale confiscation of property from the Cherokee (my wife's people) during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. The Cherokee were a civilized people living on farms, raising cattle and crops; much in the manner of the white man. Their land was coveted by the whites who gained the favor of President Jackson, who with the aid of the Army, drove the Cherokee off his land and in a forced march drove them to Oklahoma, then called "Indian Territorty." Thousands died from the hardship of the march called by the Indian "The Trail of Tears" The Cherokee and other Indian nations such as the Delawares (Leni-Lenape) were promised by the Federal Government that their new home would be their's forever. "As long as the sun sets in the west". This promise was taken seriously only by the Indian. The news of the "resettlement" of the Indians caught the attention of the whites and they began to covet that land also. The white settlers moved in with the blessings of the U.S. Government. Taking back that which they had so solemnly pledged to the Indian. This act may well have been the source of the term "Indian giver."
: Do we need a bigger example of the term? And Yes! most Indians have heard of this phrase and know, all to well, its meaning.
: ES

A Columbia Journalism Review dart goes to: the Wall St. Journal. The newspaper "put into print an excoriating editorial on Governor George Pataki's plan to create six Indian casinos in New York State, drawing its rhetorical ammunition from a barrel of such stereotypes as 'big chief,' 'trading beads,' 'great white father,' and 'pow-wow.' (In a follow-up editorial four weeks later, the Journal dismissed, in passing, the 'perceived insults' of Native Americans thusly: 'We thought we were having fun with Mr. Pataki, not Indians. But in any case the race card has become the first refuge of scoundrels in American politics.'")

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