Thursday, October 19, 2017

Whatever Happened to Sitting Indian Style?

A while back, I had the chance to visit with some former classmates of mine that I’ve known far longer than any of us would probably like to see in print.

We were talking about the fact that their children at that time were about the same age we were when we met. (Which was almost as horrifying a thought as seeing the number of years we’ve known each other in print might be.)

I made mention of our elementary school days and referred to an old braided woven rug we’d have to sit on and wait for our classmates to finish their assignments before we could go out to recess.

I said something about the teachers having us sit there “Indian style” and remain completely silent. Keeping a group of six-year-olds congregated together without allowing them to make a sound is as futile an effort in the 1970s as it is today. (And we had longer attention spans back then!)

When I said, “Indian style,” meaning a way of sitting with your legs crossed under you, as illustrated, I was quickly corrected.

It seems that sitting Indian Style is no longer considered appropriate language.

“Criss-cross applesauce,” one of my classmates said.

I looked at her with puzzlement. “Say what?”

“It’s criss-cross applesauce.”

These days, “Indian style” is known as “criss-cross applesauce” and if “spoons in the bowl” is added, that means placing your hands in your lap. (I’m not sure where else one would assume a six-year-old would place his hands, but I guess that’s immaterial.)

Someone has decided that “Indian style” is — wait, you might want to sit down for this one! — offensive to Native Americans.

I laughed out loud — I literally “LOLed” — when I was told this nugget of information. “Indian style,” or anything else one chooses to call it, refers to what is also known as the “Lotus position.” The Lotus position, as far as anyone can tell, is of a different kind of “Indian style.” As in being from India, whose people are far more legitimately referred to as “Indians” than “Native Americans” are.

I have since learned that Native Americans have grown offended by the term, despite the fact that it refers to the “other” Indians, because they feel that when children hear the term Indian, they can only think of Native Americans, not people from the actual country of India. Therefore, the word Indian means “Native American,” “Indian style,” therefore, means “Native American style,” and Native Americans want no part of that.

I’m not sure why the style of sitting crosslegged, no matter with which race of people it is associated by name, should possibly be viewed as offensive. It’s just a way to sit. If it were attributed to the French or the Australian, would they object to being connected to sitting that way?

I don’t see anything particularly shameful about sitting in that manner, and don’t see why its attribution to any specific group of people, if that’s where it’s most known or the source of it entering our culture, should be a problem, either.

But it’s a lot more fun to complain, isn’t it?


  1. Why do you care so much? “This is different from when I was a kid and that makes me mad!” What kind of thinking is that?

    Indian style doesn’t come from sitting lotus style, it comes from perceptions of how Native Americans used to sit. i can’t speak to whether or not Native Americans find it offensive but if they do why not change the name? Do you really hold every term from your childhood with such reverence? At the very least it’s inaccurate since, news flash, these people aren’t from India!

    Times change, kids should be better than their parents. Arguing against it is not only futile but just plain silly. You think it’s ridiculous to be offended by “Indian style,” I think it’s far more ridiculous to be offended by tryjnf to call it something new.

    1. I read that the etymology of the phrase actually has THREE possible origins: from the Indian lotus position, a similar style in reference to Turks referred to in languages like Polish and Romanian as “Turkish style” or possibly from the way some Native American Indians (indigenous peoples of the Americas) sat. You seem to rule out the possibility it could be anything but the Native American version.

      But it seems the same question you began with could be asked of you: Why do you care so much?

  2. As an ’80s kid, it will always be “Indian style” to me. The ironic thing is, it’s rarely American Indians (which is the term many actual prefer, considering “Native American” to be simply anybody who’s born in America) who are offended by this kind of stuff or the naming of sports teams things like “Redskins” or “Braves.” It’s typically liberals, who think they have the right to dictate what others should and shouldn’t do, should and shouldn’t be offended by. Just like how nowadays the people who complain about “cultural appropriation” are never from the actual culture supposedly being “appropriated.” It’s usually angry white feminists/social justice warriors telling other white people not to wear kimonos or drink sake, while actual Japanese people think it’s nice and an honor if people from other cultures want to wear Japanese clothes or eat Japanese food, because it’s spreading their cultural in a positive light.

  3. I think this is fairly ridiculous, and “crisscross applesauce” sounds idiotic.

    However, I think probably the supposed Native American unhappiness has less to do with there being anything wrong with that particular way of sitting, and more with something being attributed to or associated with an entire race.

  4. Okay, this is taking all of this entirely too, too far.

    Sitting “Indian style” is sitting with one’s legs crisscrossed, with the feet folded under the opposite knee (the ‘Native American style). Sitting “Lotus position” is sitting with one’s legs crisscrossed with the feet placed above the opposite knee (the Hindu style). Even so…

    Saying one name – or both – is offensive to anyone is just ridiculous. I’m sorry, but this whole PC thing is just so out of hand, and saying “crisscross applesauce” is too stupid and childish to me. This had to be the result of some addlepated adult, not kids – kids don’t see things in this fashion or get offended over such silliness. No one is born prejudiced, either – this is learned behaviour, you know.

    Stuff like this makes me grumble and mutter with great disdain.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 26 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.