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Indian giver

Posted by Scott Marsden on July 12, 2000

In Reply to: Indian giver posted by angie engelhardt on July 11, 2000

: I've always known an indian giver to be someone who gives something and then takes it back.

Funny you should mention this. A mailing list I belong too handled this phrase today:

"The phrase "Indian giver" (to mean a person who gives a gift and then wants it back) does NOT reflect the nature of Indian gift-giving practices, but is rather an erroneous description of practices that non-Native Americans did not understand. In some American Indian cultures, giving a gift meant that a gift of similar value was to be returned. In certain tribes, this made
gift-giving almost competitive, so that a person who wanted to establish status or embarrass a rival would give a large gift in the hope that the returned gift could not match it. This, of
course, did not mean the gift-giver wanted his gift back, only that he expected reciprocity. Those not familiar with the culture misinterpreted the practice and assumed it meant a person wanted his own gift returned to him."