Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Life

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?

14 Comments

  1. hey Patrick- great blog!
    i have a suggestion: why don’t we all agree to call it “India Style”? “Sitting India Style” would be sitting as people do commonly in India, so not referring (or accidentally referring) to any person or group of people! and no one could be offended- problem solved!
    thnx Patrick

  2. I grew up calling it Indian Style in the 90’s and have also noticed that it is now Criss Cross Applesauce (whatever that means). Why not just call it cross-legged?

    Either way, I would imagine that it wasn’t the Native Americans themselves that grew offended by the term. It was probably white people who decided to become offended on their behalf. Thats usually how these things happen. These advocates are always on the lookout for the next outrage and they are scraping the bottom of the barrel at this point.

  3. Such political correctness is sickening…It sounds retarded….haha. you can keep your political correctness
    It’s kinda like in the 70s, you know if your brother’s wanted you to do something and you didn’t want to do it they said come on don’t be a “######”… It didn’t mean that you were doing something gay or were gay, just meant ,,come on don’t be wimpy… Let’s give every kid a trophy just because they showed up

      1. If you saw that I set the site’s profanity filter to block the word, why would you think I’d allow you to spell it with spaces?

        As to your earlier point, I’m not sure why you’d want to justify using a slur word, even if you didn’t mean it as THAT type of slur. A slur is a slur, after all. Changing the meaning makes it no less inappropriate.

  4. I am an Indian. I finished my school studies in the late 1970s. In India it was then common for classrooms to have no furniture for sitting for the teachers or the students. we sat on durries ( woven rugs) in most schools. In the so called ‘ public schools’ which were actually the schools run by private managements and not by the government, the concept of desks and beaches came into vogue. Yet in the halls, auditoriums the students still sat on the long durries on the floor.

    Yet now in India, we come across articles published in leading newspapers on how children are be ‘abused and humilated’ because they are made to sit on the floor during classrooms.

    I was just completing my research article on type of furniture which is best suited for classrooms and for the growing body of the school going child. It suddenly stuck me that I also was somewhere saying that furniture is a must in classrooms and hence I started looking at the internet to view what has been stated about this ‘Indian style of classroom sitting’. Till now I had assumed that it is just called ‘sitting on the floor’.

    Now that I am at it, let me tell another somewhat related incidence:
    Although with age I now prefer the so called ‘western style’ washroom. Apparently one does not use the word ‘toilet’ any longer. At one of the airports, i was informed by one of the concerned co-passengers to not go into that one as it is the one used by Asians and has only a hole there.
    I just walked into that cubicle and she was quite surprise that i came out in one piece and very much the same. The hole had not engulfed me.

    1. Thanks for the perspective, Renu.

      In my experience, there was a large, oval-shaped woven rug in a certain area of the classroom, and as students finished certain assignments and were waiting for the next lesson to begin, they would go to the rug and sit down and wait. (The assignments themselves were done in traditional school desks.)

      I think the idea behind us being told to sit “Indian Style” was to sit there and take up as little space as possible (legs folded rather than legs out) so that more students could sit there until it was time to go to the next less on that day.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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
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.