Jacqueline Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, released the following statement on Matt Lauer’s use of the phrase “Indian Giver” on NBC’s Today:
“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.
Mr. Lauer’s misinformed choice of words reinforces archaic and hurtful racial stereotypes that date back to colonial America. 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.
Native Americans have made and continue to make significant contributions to North American society and the global community – including in sports and athletics.
In London, a number of Native American athletes are competing in the 2012 Olympics including; Mary Killman, a member of the Citizen Band Potawatomi Tribe of Oklahoma (synchronized duet technical swimming) and Tumua Anae, a Native Hawaiian, competing as the goalie for the U.S. National Water Polo team.
It’s noteworthy that 2012 also marks the 100th anniversary of one of the more memorable Olympic moments when Jim Thorpe, a Native American considered the best athlete of the 20th Century and an All-American hero, was called the “greatest Athlete in the world” by the King of Sweden. This happened when the King of Sweden gave Thorpe of the Sac and Fox Nation, his gold medals for placing first in game’s the pentathlon and decathlon competitions. Since 1912, no other athlete has accomplished this feat.
Matt Lauer can still have his great Olympic moment and exhibit true Olympic spirit by educating NBC’s global audience about the important place of Native American’s in society and sports. Like so many athletes are doing every day in London, we hope he rises to the moment. ”
About The National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit NCAI.org.