Whatever Happened to Sitting Indian Style?


It seems that references to a person sitting ‘Indian Style’ are no longer considered appropriate language in the classroom.

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?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 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.


  • This is OUR country I’m not going to move to India and get offended at their culture and Indians will have to just deal with the fact that it is Indian style and shut up. Just because we have social media isn’t an excuse to change tradition

  • Some people are offended by the things we say and do. As Christians it is our imperative to have respect for others feelings out of LOVE. If this seems too difficult I would encourage you to ask for the Lords help. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves and if our neighbor is offended by what we say or do then our moral imperative as followers of Christ should inspire us to change our behavior to something less offensive and more loving.

    • That’s quite an interesting assumption you’ve made here.

      As I’m sure you must know, there are those out there who’ve been hurt in some way by our fellow Christians — Christians who the Bible might describe as “hypocrites.” For some of them, any MENTION of God or Christ or church or faith is offensive because of their preconceived notions developed from those who hurt them in some way.

      What do you do with those people? Is that a valid reason to stop witnessing? Or do you try to look for the reason for the “offense” and look for ways to bridge the gap.

      It’s also interesting to me that you seem to think I should ask for the Lord’s help while you don’t seem to make the same suggestion to the others who take offense to the expression. Curious.

  • Patrick, it is interesting your choice of what you deem offensive and worthy of censoring whilst discussing what you view is offensive to others that should not be censored. You are an interesting person.

    • Thanks, Aaron. I’m sure there are things you find offensive and things you don’t. I’d be willing to bet that some of the things that are offensive to others but not to you are things you feel shouldn’t be offensive, either.

      In that respect, we’re all pretty interesting people, aren’t we?

    • To whom it may concern,
      In the United States, this country has been an Anglo Saxon dominate.
      Understand that everything, tv, music, advertisements, cloths , everything else I have missed are made for and by Anglo people.
      Referring to sitting in indian Style is dehumanizing a Native American, and if you truly referrer to an indian as someone from India than you dehumanize them.
      Dehumanizing people that are not Anglo, is racism, is white supremacy.
      Please understand, i am not accusing anyone. But helping to open your mind to the idea. Everyone needs to understand that as a Native American who grew up in schools that were primarily Anglo, I heard teachers use indian style, I heard teachers referred children being hyper, uncontrolled, excited for recess, after recess or excited for a break, as a bunch of wild Indians.
      Native Americans like my father, his father and his father before that, were forced into boarding schools, talked to and about as less than human, different than anglos therefore made to be like Anglo’s. This, like the way anglos treated people from Africa, are racist and white supremacy actions that we need to be reversed.
      The reason indian Style is no longer excepted is ridding of white supremacy, prevent racism from continuing. If children hear these terms, Anglo children can continue to feel superior than people who are not Anglo.
      Instead of asking why can’t we use this term we used as kids, understand why and the reason for the change.

      • How is referring to someone from the country of India as “Indian” possibly “dehumanizing” them? What would you call someone from India?

  • I am a grandmother. I ask my grandchildren to sit down Indian style on the couch in order to keep their feet covered by a blanket on a winter day. They knew not what I spoke of. Then the 9 year old said that’s not what it’s called it’s called criss cross applesauce. I found it strange sitting in this position was attached to the word applesauce. This sounded as though maybe a preschool teacher to make it funny for preschoolers. I am half White half American Indian. I think it is quite awesome when things are attributed to different nationalitys that teach one something. American Indians are proud of their heritage. I think they are proud that Americans and any other nationality would practice a form of sitting as they and their ancestors have practiced for hundreds of years. They taught people something in America and it spread around the world possibly. Why would anyone choose to change this, confused. I think it’s wonderful that my Ancestors were credited for teaching this. Changing the name of it is necessary to whom and for what really. I do believe that different nationalitys of people have taught many people around the world many different things. Why is it wrong to give them credit for this when it is TRUE. Times change have changed for hundreds of years but I personally do not consider this change I consider this foolish and something else to take away from children in order to learn history and how things actually originated. I’m not writing this to offend anyone but if so stop offending the American history. If it weren’t for history one wouldn’t be here, take pride in your ancestors take pride in your friends ancestry take pride where it is due for teachings. Give credit where credit is due. My grandmother was a proud American Indian and she told her grandchildren to sit Indian style and demonstrated to us how to do so. So who is actually being offensive in this situation and what is the real reason. Love one another, take pride in teachings be strong we are not a weak nation lead by your example lead with truth and strength. You are all beautiful people.

    • well your from the white culture that committed genocide on an indigenous race ,you could choose to continue to be racist and ignorant or you can humble yourself and notcontinue your peoples racist ignorant assult on American Indians. Have some shame and accountability for what your people have done and dont dare speak 1 word against them. If its offensive then cease from doing it.

      • Kat, consider this your warning: the rules of this site are that comments should be respectful. Yours wasn’t. I’ve deleted another of your comments for foul language.

        Consider humbling yourself a bit if you want to continue commenting here.

        • Kat clearly didn’t listen to granny point out that she’s part native American, nice try at being pointlessly offensive though. I can’t believe you even typed that comment when it’s so clear you didn’t even read hers and are being ten times more offensive to her heritage, and Indian heritage, yourself, by your comment. Now good day lol

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

    • You cant even write ######…it put pound sign to replace it when I wrote the post, unbelievable

      • 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.

        • Patrick nice blog. Every night now for a month I’ve been going to sleep listening to old homemade cassette tapes from several years ago. Approximately 15 -20 year old cassette tapes. These tapes are recordings of my songs I made up then and moments in my life I recorded.
          What happens is I eventually fall asleep, the tape runs all the way through and when I wake up I flip the tape over and start listening to the other side. Or if that cassette has been listened to I simply pop in another and hit play. All the tape have no labels so I’ve no idea what’s on each cassette, which make it very thrilling.
          So I woke up this morning, realized I was done listening to the cassette and so I randomly selected another cassette of my over 1000 cassettes (yes 1000) actually more to listen to.

          I popped in the selected cassette. This particular cassette is of my daughter when she was 5. I’m teacher her to play guitar on the cassette.
          Well she’s having trouble holding the guitar and on the cassette I hear myself say to her “well maybe it will be easier to play if you sit Indian style on the floor”

          This phrase (living in the current environment of pc nonsense led me to think..”I wonder if that term “Indian style” is now discriminatory?

          This led me to do a search. Low and behold.
          This is how I landed on your blog.

      • gay is not the same thing as a culture. its not politically correct its about the American indians being sick and tired of the inacurate portrail of theyre culture. Or over exagerated narratives. have some respect

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • MY GOODNESS YOU JUST WON THE WHOLE INTERNET WITH THAT COMMENT!! Sorry for shouting, but I couldn’t agree more!!! Be blessed!

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