aborginal /indigenous /native [Canada]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Kelly B, Feb 13, 2010.

  1. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    Hi, all,

    I was interested by the choice of aboriginal to describe the First Nations people who participated in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Indigenous is the word I think of first in that general context. Aboriginal is correct as a general term, too, but I associate it closely with people of Australia, so the choice surprised me.

    What word would you have chosen? What associations do you have with those words?

  2. looking-at-the-stars Senior Member

    California, USA
    American English
    I would have said indigenous as well. I almost exclusively associate the word aboriginal with Australia.
  3. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Yes, although I know 'aboriginal' originally referred to the inhabitants of Latium before Rome was founded, and is sometimes used in Canada, I can't help thinking of Aeneas being threatened with boomerangs. Outside Canada, at least, it's become basically the adjective of a proper noun.
  4. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hi Kelly,

    All the possibilities have flaws, including heinous political correctitude in some cases.

    Aboriginal: accurate, but has strong Australian overtones. It is also used in academic writing, and appropriately so. It sounds out of place for a public, non-academic, ceremony.

    First Nations people: This is, mercifully, limited for the most part to Canadian English. If speakers of that variety of English are comfortable with it, more power to them. May they keep it within their borders.

    Indigenous: Sounds good. :tick:

    Native: Also sounds good and is accurate, but can be applied with equal accuracy to any native-born resident, whether Indian, First Nations person, aborigine, or descendant of explorers and colonizers and refugee immigrants.

    Indian: Many Indian tribes in North America prefer to call themselves Indians, rather than some other term more in fashion with the p.c.c. (political correctitude crew), but it is too contentious for most non-Indian organizations to consider. Members of my immediate family with Indian heritage prefer Indian to any of the other terms.
  5. Jam on toast

    Jam on toast Senior Member

    British English
    Hi Kelly,
    I too would use "indigenous" rather than "aboriginal", because of the Australian flavour of the latter word. I do have a vague impression, however, that "aboriginal" is being used more and more in recent years. It could be a false impression; I'm not sure how I could test it.

    For me, "natives" echoes too much of early-to-mid 19th century writing in which "native" is used to describe indigenous people in a derogatory way. Perhaps it is an unpleasant legacy of the British Empire.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2010
  6. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    The preferences in the terms used tend to be tied very specifically to the history of the particular country we are discussing. It seems that Aboriginal peoples is used in Canada to inclusively refer to the three groups of native peoples who live there: First Nations · Inuit · Métis. From the Wiki article on the Inuit:
    In Canada, the Constitution Act of 1982, sections 25 and 35 recognised the Inuit as a distinctive group of Canadian aboriginals, who are neither First Nations nor Métis.
    For instance, Aboriginal is the name used by many agencies serving members of these groups.

    It would be interesting to have some Canadian views on the subject.

    Edit: Capitalize Aboriginal, which Wiktionary tells me is customarily capitalized in Canada, though it isn't capitalized in the Wiki article above.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2010
  7. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I was actually encouraged by its apparently unencumbered use in the ceremony, that the word might be undergoing a de-stigmatization or de-connotation or whatever. It seemed totally in place here and the Australian government issued a formal apology to their aboriginal people for the way they were treated. Maybe I'm just an optimist :D

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