We had a very interesting caller into our radio show Tuesday morning. We were discussing the highly controversial topic of "Critical Race Theory" and the issue of race in America.

A nice woman named Lillian called in from Cut Bank, Montana. She said she is Native American, but that she also looks white. As a result, she says she has experienced racism on both sides, at times for being Native American, and also for being white. Lillian said she doesn't like it when people use the word "Indian" to describe Native Americans, she prefers the term Native American.

Right after Lillian called, we got another phone call from Ray in Kalispell who says he respectfully disagrees, and that he prefers to be called Indian.

If you've lived in Montana for a few years, you've likely had friends or relatives who prefer either the term Native American or Indian. Either title is a badge of honor and something to be proud of in my book.

So what is it? For the folks who may be new to Montana, or simply don't know, which term should they use? If you're a member of one of the tribes here in Montana, what do you prefer? Native American? Indian? Indigenous? American Indian? Does it depend on who is using the term? I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.

I won't pretend to have all the answers here, but I did come across a couple interesting tidbits after an initial search.

The first comes from the Smithsonian, which is home to the National Museum of the American Indian:

All of these terms are acceptable. The consensus, however, is that whenever possible, Native people prefer to be called by their specific tribal name. In the United States, Native American has been widely used but is falling out of favor with some groups, and the terms American Indian or indigenous American are preferred by many Native people.

Here's what the Associated Press style guide recommends:

American Indians, Native Americans Both are acceptable terms in general references for those in the U.S. when referring to two or more people of different tribal affiliations. For individuals, use the name of the tribe; if that information is not immediately available, try to obtain it.

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