Indian – The Word

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Indian – The common designation of the aborigines of America. The name first occurs in a letter of Columbus dated Feb., 1493, wherein the discoverer speaks of the Indios he had with him (F. F. Hilder in Am. Anthrop., n. s., i, 545, 1899). It was the general belief of the day, shared by Columbus, that in his voyage across the Atlantic he had reached India. This term, in spite of its misleading connotation, has passed into the languages of the civilized world: Indio in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian; Indien in French; Indianer in German, etc. The term American Indian, for which it has been proposed to substitute Amerind (q. v.), is however in common use; less so the objectionable term redskins, to which correspond the French Peaux-rouges, the German Rothh√§ute. Brinton titled his book on the aborigines of the New World, “The American Race,” but this return to an early use of the word American can hardly be successful. In geo graphical nomenclature the Indian is well remembered. There are Indian Territory, Indiana, Indianapolis, Indianola, Indio. Besides these, the maps and gazetteers record Indian arm, bay, bayou, beach, bottom, branch, brook, camp, castle, cove, creek, crossing, diggings, draft, fall, field, fields, ford, gap, grove, gulch, harbor, head, hill, hills, island, lake, mills, mound, mountain, neck, orchard, pass, point, pond, ridge, river, rock, run, spring, springs, swamp, town, trace, trail, valley, village, and wells, in various parts of the United States and Canada. The term Red Indian, applied to the Beothuk, has given Newfoundland a number of place names.

Many wild plants have been called “Indian” in order to mark them off from familiar sorts. Use by Indians has been the origin of another class of such terms. Indian is used as an identifying term in the following phrases:

Indian apple. The May apple, or wild mandrake ( Podophyllum peltatum).

Indian arrow. The burning bush, or wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus).

Indian arrow-wood. The flowering dog wood, or cornelian tree (Cornus florida).

Indian balm. The erect trillium, or ill-scented wake-robin (Trillium erectum).

Indian bark. The laurel magnolia, or sweet bay (Magnolia virginiana).

Indian bean. (1) The catalpa, or bean-tree ( Catalpa catalpa}. (2 ) A New Jersey name of the groundnut (Apios apios).

Indian beard-grass. The bushy beard-grass (Andropogon glomeratus).

Indian bitters. A North Carolina name of the Fraser umbrella or cucumber tree (Magnolia fraseri).

Indian black drink. The cassena, yaupon, black drink (q. v.), or Carolina tea (Ilex cassine).

Indian boys and girls. A western name of the Dutchman’s breeches (Bikukutta cucullaria).

Indian bread. The tuckahoe (Scelero-tium giganteum).

Indian bread-root. The prairie turnip, or pomme blanche (Psoralea esculenta).

Indian cedar. The hop-hornbeam, or iron wood ( Ostrya virginiana).

Indian cherry. (1) The service-berry, or June-berry (Amelanchier canadensis). (2) The Carolina buckthorn (Rhamntis caroliniana) .

Indian chickweed. The carpet- weed (Mollugo verticillata).

Indian chief. A western name of the American cowslip or shooting-star (Dodecatheon meadia).

Indian cigar tree. The common catalpa (Catalpa catalpa), a name in use in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. See Indian bean, above.

Indian corn. Maize (Zea mays), for which an early name was Indian wheat.

Indian cucumber. Medeola virginiana, also known as Indian cucumber-root.

Indian cup. (1) The common pitcher-plant (Sarracenia purpurea). (2) The cup-plant (Silphium perfoliatum).

Indian currant. The coral-berry (Symphoricarpos vulgaris) .

Indian dye. The yellow puccoon or orange-root (Hydrastis canadensis); also known as yellow-root.

Indian elm. The slippery-elm (Ulmus fulra).

Indian fig. (1) The eastern prickly pear (Opuntia opuntia). (2) Cereus giganteus, or saguaro, the giant cereus of Arizona, California, Mexico, and New Mexico.

Indian fog. The crooked yellow stone-crop or dwarf houseleek (Sedum refiexum).

Indian gravel-root. The tall boneset or joe-pye-weed (Eupatoriam purpureum).

Indian hemp. (1) The army- root ( Apocynum cannabinum) , called also black Indian hemp. (2) The swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and the hairy milk weed (A. pulchra), called also white Indian hemp. (3) A West Virginia name for the yellow toad-flax (Linaria linaria). (4) The velvet-leaf (Abutilon abutilon), called also Indian mallow.

Indian hippo. The bowman’s root ( Porteranthus trifoliatus), called also Indian physic.

Indian lemonade. A California name, according to Bergen, for the fragrant sumac (Rhus trilobata).

Indian lettuce. The round-leaved wintergreen (Pyrola rotundifolia) .

Indian mallow. (1) The velvet-leaf (Abut don abutilon), also known as Indian hemp. (2) The prickly sida (Sida spinosa).

Indian melon. A Colorado name of a species of Echinocactus.

Indian millet. The silky oryzopsis (Oryzopsis cuspidata).

Indian moccasin. The stemless lady’s slipper or moccasin-flower (Cypripedium acaule).

Indian mozemize, or moose misse. The American mountain-ash or dogberry (Sorbus americana).

Indian paint. (1) The strawberry-blite (Blitum capitatum). (2) The hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens). (3) A Wisconsin name, according to Bergen, for a species of Tradescantia. (4) Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), called red Indian paint. (5) The yellow puccoon (Hydrastis canadensis), called yellow Indian paint.

Indian paint-brush. The scarlet- painted cup (Castilleja coccinea).

Indian peach. Ungrafted peach trees, according to Bartlett, which are considered to be more thrifty and said to bear larger fruit. In the South a specific variety of clingstone peach.

Indian pear. The service-berry (Amelanchier canadensis), called also wild Indian pear.

Indian physic. (1) The bowman’s-root ( Porteranthus trifoliatus), called also Indian hippo. (2) American ipecac ( Porteranthus stipulates). (3) Fraser’s magnolia, the long-leaved umbrella-tree (Magnolia fraseri).

Indian pine. The loblolly, or old-field pine (Pinus taeda) .

Indian pink. (1) The Carolina pink, or worm-grass (Spigelia marylandica). (2) The cypress-vine (Quamoclit quamoclit). (3) The fire pink (Silene virginica). (4) The cuckoo-flower, or ragged-robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi). (5) The fringed milkwort, or polygala (Polygala paucifolia). (6) The scarlet-painted cup (Castilleja coccinea). (7) The wild pink (Silene pennsylranica). ( 8 ) Silene californica.

Indian pipe. The corpse-plant or ghost-flower (Monotropa uniftora) .

Indian pitcher. The pitcher-plant or side-saddle flower (Sarracenia purpurea).

Indian plantain. (1) The great Indian plantain or wild collard (Mesadenia reniformis). (2) The pale Indian plantain (M. atriplicifolia). (3) The tuberous Indian plantain (M. tuberosa). (4) The sweet-scented Indian plantain (Synosma suareolens).

Indian poke. (1) American white hellebore (Veratnun viride). (2) False hellebore ( V. woodii).

Indian posey. (1) Sweet life-everlasting (Gnaphalium obtusifolium). (2) Large-flowered everlasting (Anaphalis argaritacea). (3) The butterfly- weed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Indian potato. (1) The groundnut (Apio<apios). (2) A western name for the squirrel-corn (Bikukulla canadensis). (3) A California name, according to Bergen, for Brodiaea capitata; but according to Barrett (inf’n, 1906) the term is indiscriminately given to many different species of bulbs and corms, which formed a considerable item in the food supply of the Californian Indians.

Indian puccoon. The hoary puccoon ( Lithospermum canescens ) .

Indian red-root. The red-root (Gyrotheca cap data}.

Indian rhubarb. A California name, according to Bergen, for Saxifraga peltata.

Indian rice. Wild rice (Zizania aquatica).

Indian root. The American spikenard (Aralia racemosa).

Indian sage. The common thoroughwort or boneset ( Eupatorium perfoliatum ) .

Indian shamrock. The ill-scented wake-robin, or erect trillium ( Trillium erectum).

Indian shoe. The large yellow lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium hirsutum).

Indian slipper. The pink lady’s slipper, or moccasin-flower (Cypripedium acaule).

Indian soap-plant. The soap-berry, or wild China-tree (Sapindus marginatus).

Indian strawberry. The strawberry-blite (Blitium capitatum}.

Indian tea. Plants, the leaves, etc., of which have been infused by the Indians, and after them by whites; also the decoction made there from, for example, Labrador tea (Ledum graelandicum), which in Labrador is called Indian tea.

Indian tobacco. (1) The wild tobacco ( Lobelia infiata). (2) Wild tobacco ( Nicotiana rustica). (3) The plantain-leaf ever lasting (Antennaria plantaginifolia) . (4) A New Jersey name, according to Bartlett, of the common mullein (Verbascum thapsus).

Indian turmeric. The yellow puccoon, or orange-root (Hydrastis canadensis).

Indian turnip. (1) The jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphylium), also called three-leaved Indian turnip. (2) The prairie potato, or pomme blanche (Psor-alea esculenta).

Indian vervain. A Newfound land name, according to Bergen, for the shining club-moss (Lycopodium lucidulum).

Indian warrior. A California name for Pedicularis densiflora.

Indian weed. An early term for tobacco.

Indian wheat. An early term for maize, or Indian corn.

Indian whort. A Labrador and Newfoundland name for the red bearberry or kinnikinnik (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi).

Indian wickup. The great willow-herb or fire weed (Epilobium augustfolium, although Algonquian Indians called the basswood (Tilia americana) wickup.

There are, besides, the Indian’s dream, the purple-stemmed cliff-brake (Pellaea atropurpurea), and the Indian’s plume, Oswego tea (Monarda didyma).

Another series of terms in which the Indian is remembered is the following:

Indian bed. A simple method of roasting clams, by placing them, hinges uppermost, on the ground, and building over them a fire of brushwood.

Indian bread. Bread made of maize meal or of maize and rye meal.

Indian-corn hills. (1) In Essex co., Mass., according to Bartlett, hummocky land resembling hills of Indian corn. (2) Hillocks covering broad fields near the ancient mounds and earthworks of Ohio, Wisconsin, etc. (Lapham, Antiquities of Wisconsin).

Indian dab. A Pennsylvania name for a sort of battercake.

Indian file. Single file; the order in which Indians march.

Indian fort. A name given to aboriginal earthworks in w. New York, in Ohio, and elsewhere.

Indian gift. Something reclaimed after having been given, in reference to the alleged custom among Indians of expecting an equivalent for a gift or otherwise its return.

Indian giver. A repentant giver.

Indian ladder. A ladder made by trimming a small tree, the part of the branches near the stem being left as steps.

Indian liquor. A Western term for whisky or rum adulterated for sale to the Indians.

Indian meal. Maize or corn meal. A mixture of wheat and maize flour was called in earlier days “wheat and Indian”; one of maize and rye flour, “rye and Indian.”

Indian orchard. According to Bartlett, a term used in New York and Massachusetts to designate an old orchard of un-grafted apple trees, the time of planting being unknown.

Indian pipestone. A name for catlinite (q. v.), the stone of which tribes in the region of the upper Mississippi made their tobacco pipes.

Indian pudding. A pudding made of cornmeal, molasses, etc.

Indian reservation or reserve. A tract of land reserved by Government for the Indians.

Indian sign. A Western colloquialism of the earlier settlement days for a trace of the recent presence of Indians.

Indian sugar. One of the earlier names for maple sugar.

Indian summer. The short season of pleasant weather usually occurring about the middle of November, corresponding to the European St Marthas summer, or summer of All Saints (Albert Matthews in Monthly Weather Rev., Jan., 1902).

The name Indian appears sometimes in children’s games (Chamberlain in Jour. Am. Folk-lore, xv, 107-116, 1902).

In Canadian French the usual term applied to the Indian was “sauvage” (savage); and hence are met such terms as “botte sauvage,” “traine sauvage,” “tabagane,” “the sauvage.” The “Siwash” of the Pacific coast and in the Chinook jargon is only a corruption of the “sauvage” of French-Canadian trappers and adventurers. (A. F. C.)




MLA Source Citation:

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 20 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/indian.htm - Last updated on Aug 30th, 2013


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