By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
A comment by an NBC personality has many in Indian Country reeling. During a broadcast on Monday, Aug. 6, Matt Lauer, of NBC’s Today, used the phrase “Indian giver” during banter with Meredith Vieira.
Jacqueline Pata, National Congress of American Indian executive director, stated, “Matt Lauer of NBC’s Today, an international media personality, made irresponsible comments on the global stage of the 2012 Olympic Games when he used the phrase ‘Indian Giver’ during NBC’s morning coverage of the London Olympics. These comments were not in the spirit of the Olympic Games, nor civil discourse.”
She went on to explain the origin of the term. “Early commerce between tribal nations and colonial settlers required the value of goods exchanged to be of equal or greater value, or the trade was not deemed acceptable. Some colonial traders who did not uphold this ethic used this phrase to discredit tribal nations and Native traders. Now, the pejorative phrase has become associated with a person who takes back a gift. This misrepresents the original and modern cultural values of Native Americans, based on fair trade, sharing and empowering those around them.”
The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) released a statement denouncing the term and its usage. “The term invokes a stereotype and inaccuracy about our history that is offensive to Native people. It should not be used on a national news program, even in a passing reference. NAJA asks that NBC and Lauer apologize for the comment.”
The use of the remark wasn’t just caught by those in Indian Country, it hit the blogosphere as well. Perez Hilton posted an article on his popular site entitled “Why Matt Lauer’s Olympic Racial Slur is Particularly Offensive to Native Americans”.
“There are plenty of homophobic and racist slurs that were once used in regular conversations,” said Hilton. “Thanks to heightened awareness, most of us have become a little more sensitive to the fact that what means nothing to us may mean a heck of a lot more to somebody else!”
The One Feather sought comment from Lauer and NBC but have not received a response by press time.