What is an Indian Giver?

I’ve heard this phrase all my life.

“He’s an Indian Giver!”

So what is an Indian Giver?

I researched it and found several definitions, none of which met my childhood expectations of the real definition.

Per a majority of sources I read, and Indian Giver is one who gives something of value to a person with the expectation of receiving something of equal value in return. My problem with that is, Native Peoples didn’t have a gold standard or other monetary system so who defined the values?

If a man has something stuck between two teeth and it’s driving him crazy, does a toothpick have the same value to me as to him?

When the Europeans invaded the Americas, the Native Peoples, true to their values offered them gifts of greeting with the expectation of equal gifts of value in thanks. See a problem here? If you said “communications” you’d be right on.

I’m guessing that the Europeans didn’t understand this giving concept and if they did, they were placing values on the gifts based on the their own standards. An example would be an Eagle’s Feather (Bald Eagle), to a Native person this would be a very sacred gift but to a European it was probably seen as a black and white feather.

Are you following me yet?

OK, so let’s hypothesize: The Native places an extremely high value on the feather so he has a high expectation of the value of the gift the European gives in return. The European, on the other hand places little value on the feather so he may give a rock in return. Not good etiquette! Insult time!

The European is allegedly practicing Indian Giving by not trading for equal value. All sounds plausible from a European’s point of view however my Grandmother had a better and, at least in my mind much more plausible explanation.

“An Indian Giver is someone who gives to the People knowing he can to steal it and more back at first opportunity!”

If you look at the history of the European’s treatment of the Native Peoples you will probably see it through her eyes too.







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