by Robert Warrior

About Robert Warrior

Robert Warrior is Hall Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Kansas. He is co-author (with Paul Chaat Smith) of Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee and the editor of The World of Indigenous North America.


“Indian” as a stand-alone term for describing peoples indigenous to the Americas has thankfully, and appropriately, been declining in usage over the past several decades, though it persists in its familiarity. Its persistence may be due to its deep and conflicting roots in the history of the Western Hemisphere and in the contemporary imaginations and attitudes of those who use it. The issue of the proper usage of this term and those related to it (“Native American,” “American Indian,” “Amerindian,” “Native,” “Indigenous,” and “First Nations,” among others) can be frustrating since the question can seem so much more substantial than it really is. After all, identifying the correct term and employing it rather than others is only a small step toward opening up the depths of historical or contemporary indigenous experiences. But an inquiry into the origins of the term can be a way of beginning a discussion of what students and practitioners of American studies and cultural studies ought to be learning and researching about the aboriginal history of the Americas.