Surely Indian isn’t the right word, several wrote, as they had been taught growing up that the politically correct term is Native American. A couple of students said it was the name for people of India, and they blamed Christopher Columbus for the confusion because he used it to describe the native people he found when he thought he had landed in the east.

Others admitted they didn’t really know. A “foggy fairy tale,” one suggested. For others, the name invoked images from popular culture—cowboys and Indians, war paint and feathered headdresses, the natives in the story “Peter Pan,” and the controversial Pocahontas, portrayed in an animated movie released around the time the students were born.

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