Blog: A complex word

There’s this word often thrown around in my lectures. It has many definitions and builds controversy the world over. It has a cultural connotation, sure, but it implies so much more.
Leonardo Medina Santa Cruz

When used, it unavoidably comprises history, economics, the environment, ethics and morality, social justice, even war. The word’s indigenous. As in, the indigenous peoples of northwestern Amazonia.

My classmates use this word in all sorts of manners. Some of them take a small pause right before saying it. They hesitate, and speak only in whispers to avoid neighboring groups overhearing. As if the word was some kind of taboo, like Lord Voldemort.

That-which-should-not-be-named peoples of northwestern Amazonia. Ha!

Others write it between apostrophes, ‘indigenous’, as if to say they opted for its use, but they want the word to have a different meaning, one which goes ever undefined. But my favorite are those who emphasize it, even break it down in syllables: IN-DI-GE-NOUS. They entail the mystical and complex aura that surrounds it.

Anyway, one of my teachers just defined it as peoples who have lived in their land since before the current state existed. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but that would make the Dutch, indigenous, wouldn’t it?

There’s aboriginals, natives, first nations, autochthonous, ethnic… makes it all so complicated!

I looked it up. The Netherlands has existed as such since 1581. There were tall, blonde people here way before that. The Dutch share very defining physical traits, and a small geographical area. I just went to a festival, last year, which revealed quite the unique (and surprisingly awesome) culture. They even have their own language, which they share with very few other people in the world. Starting to get my point?

As required of any culturally relevant theory, I decided to test mine for local acceptance. So, while in Amsterdam, when I got introduced to Leo, my namesake, I asked where she was born. ‘I was born here’, she replied. ‘Oh, so you are indigenous?’ I asked in return.

Long story short, I think our name is the only thing we’ll be sharing.

I just don’t get. It’s okay to say those guys are, but not these. There are some over there, but none here. There’s aboriginals, natives, first nations, autochthonous, ethnic… makes it all so complicated! Imagine if we called all peoples just as they are: people. Wouldn’t that make things easier?

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