As of February 19, 2020, there are 574 federally recognized tribal nations in the United States in addition to hundreds of others that do not have federal recognition. In the rest of the Americas, there are hundreds (if not thousands) more.
The ancestors of these nations inhabited the land now known as the United States for thousands of years before European explorers arrived. When European colonization of the Americas began, these inhabitants were given one collective name—“Indians.” Later, when the United States of America was formed, “American Indian” became the legal term to refer to this group (and it remains the legal term today).
In the 1960s and 70s, during the civil rights era, “Native American” surfaced in an effort to free the descendants of these peoples from the negative connotations of the previous terms. However, as a name still imposed by an outside group (in this case, the U.S. government), many still found this term to be lacking.
A New Term for a Modern Understanding
Another term, “Indigenous Peoples,” has recently come into popular usage, and many feel it more accurately acknowledges the diversity and heritage of native populations in both the United States and across the globe. For reference, the World Health Organization defines the term as the following:
Communities that live within, or are attached to, geographically distinct traditional habitats or ancestral territories, and who identify themselves as being part of a distinct cultural group, descended from groups present in the area before modern states were created and current borders defined. They generally maintain cultural and social identities, and social, economic, cultural and political institutions, separate from the mainstream or dominant society or culture.
This term—now used by the United Nations, as well—honors the wide-ranging diversity found throughout indigenous cultures and acknowledges the experiences and trials of all colonized people around the world. Read a history of international recognition of the indigenous struggle.
Renaming HeinOnline’s “American Indian Law Collection”
In October 2011, we were pleased to add the American Indian Law Collection to our list of special subject-specific databases. This particular resource was created from a desire to consolidate the wealth of material available on American Indian law, and to share the tremendous influence that these peoples have had on the development of the United States of America.
We recognize the troubled history surrounding the terms “American Indian” and “Native American.” For this reason, we have decided to rename the database to the following: Indigenous Peoples of the Americas: History, Culture & Law.
This update is simply to give this essential resource and its tools a more appropriate name. For the next few months, you’ll see the old and new names cross-referenced wherever you locate your HeinOnline resources. However, you can rest assured that you will still find exactly the same content and functionality within the database.
Have Yet to Explore This Resource?
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