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How’s it goin’, Uprooters? Welcome to The Seedling. Mark Armao here. After a welcome break from writing, I’ve been looking into issues facing Indigenous communities, such as fracking near homes, a proposed mining operation in northern California, and the terrible legacy of the federal Indian boarding-school system.

Now, as October rolls around, we find ourselves puzzling over how exactly one celebrates Indigenous Peoples’ Day —the holiday that last year officially replaced that other one named after a colonizer that shall not be named. The phrase “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” doesn’t sound particularly inspiring, but it does reflect the evolving language we use to talk about The People Who Were Here Before Some Boats Showed Up.

The term du jour is clearly “Indigenous” (don’t forget the capital “I”), and I can see why. It may be a bit academic-sounding, but it’s a decent catch-all term and the apostrophe after “Peoples” does some heavy lifting: denoting that it’s not one “people” but many different “peoples.” In fact, there are more than 570 tribes in the U.S.

The Native American Journalists Association has some great resources for reporters, including this terminology guide. NAJA itself is poised to shift its nomenclature: Members of the group will vote next year whether to rebrand as the “Indigenous Journalists Association.”

Personally, I generally just say “Native” as both an adjective and a noun in conversation. But I understand why “Native American” is problematic. From a purely semantic standpoint, the term is pretty ambiguous; being a “native” can simply mean you were born in a place, like a “native New Yorker.” And don’t get me started on “Indian” (TLDR; Columbus was lost.) Misguided though it is, the term “Indian” or “American Indian” is widely used by Indigenous people throughout the country, and the legal term “Indian Country” is an accepted way to refer to lands currently or previously inhabited by Native peoples.

The best rule of thumb when covering Indigenous individuals or groups is to refer to them using their specific tribe, nation or community, e.g., “Cherokee Nation.” But I find it’s best to ask the people you are interviewing what wording they prefer (for instance, some Navajo people prefer to be called Diné), and I’m always quick to admit my ignorance when it comes to tribes I’m not familiar with.

I don’t pretend to have anything profound to say on the subject. Being a writer of words, though, I’ve grappled with the terminology for years. A decade ago, in college, I coined the term “Pre-American” and proceeded to share it with anyone who would listen. I even managed to slip it into a few articles over the years. And so, if you find yourself writing “Indigenous” or “Native American” over and over in an article, feel free to pepper in a little “Pre-American” while you’re at it. I promise the royalties won’t be too steep.

Mark Armao
Freelance Reporter & Uproot Fellow


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Introducing the new Audience Engagement Associate at The Uproot Project:
Sofia Prado Huggins

How long have you been in your field? I've been working in digital media since 2011.

How did you get started in your career?  Started out in content development for a small local publishing company

Have you been published anywhere?  In addition to running social media for several organizations, I've published peer-reviewed articles in a variety of scholarly journals and am the Editor-in-Chief of

What is your favorite piece you've written and why?  My current favorite piece I've written is an essay on the early nineteenth-century novel, The Woman of Colour, forthcoming in Eighteenth-Century Fiction because it is some of my most raw and intellectually honest writing even in such a formal genre.

What's a piece of advice you would give your younger self?  The right path might not be the one you thought it would be and that is the beauty of it all.

What are you reading? The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemison

Where do you live? On a farm in Maine.

What is your intention with every story? To connect with another person

What's your favorite news source? Twitter

Uproot Updates
  • The Journey of a Story: Uproot is hosting a journalism exhibit in NYC featuring the work of our members! (more details & register on Eventbrite)
    Where: Foley Gallery, NYC
    When: Wednesday, October 26, 2022, 6 PM – 8:30 PM
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The Uproot Project had a strong presence at the Online News Association Conference in LA this year. From first-time attendees to veteran members, he breadth of attendance at ONA by Uproot members truly highlighted how much The Uproot Project membership has grown over the past year and a half. Several Uproot members had the opportunity to speak on panels and share their experiences from participating in the 2022 MJ Bear Fellowship to eco-anxiety.
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