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?