LuAnn de Lesseps' official biography mentions "her Algonquin father."

Tonight's 'Real Housewives' Features Misinformed Debate Over Un-Racist Remark


Spoiler alert.

Tonight, on the reality TV series The Real Housewives of New York City, LuAnn de Lesseps will use the term "Indian." According to reports, this will greatly upset Carole Radziwill, who says that the term is racist, and tells LuAnn that "anyone over the third grade knows not to say 'Indian.'"

Oh, really?

We here at Indian Country Today Media Network beg to differ. Although there are a variety of opinions throughout Indian country as to which term—Native American or American Indian—is preferable, this debate seems to concern non-Natives more than culturally-committed members and descendants of specific nations. Certainly one would be hard pressed to find too many who would go so far as to call the word Indian "racist." An ancient misnomer? Sure.

Unfortunately, it seems there are plenty of non-Indians who feel they know better. It's not just Carole Radziwill—an article at about the spat uses the headline "‘Real Housewives’ LuAnn makes racist remark and upsets cast members." Within the text, the word Indian is simply called a "racist remark," and the article says without explanation that "In fact, using the word 'Indian' is politically incorrect." Examiner cites as its source—there, the word "racist" is put in quotation marks in the headline, but the article presents as fact that the word Indian is "a racially insensitive faux pas."

This is not to say that LuAnn, who says on her website she was raised by "her Algonquin father and a French mother", doesn't commit any "racially insensitive faux pas." The "woo-woo-woo-woo-woo" she lets out while patting her mouth with her hand wasn't a good idea.

But it's a wonder that nobody asks the Indians how they feel about "Indian." Perhaps it would even be a good topic for our own column, "Ask N NDN," written by Sonny Skyhawk. The topic might even make for a good panel discussion at the upcoming Santa Fe Indian Market or a lecture series at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

Should any Real Housewives fans or political-correctness enthusiasts really want to address the Indigenous people of Turtle Island in their preferred manner, our advice is: Find out their tribal affiliation. The Lakota love to be called Lakota; the Apache love to be called Apache; the Choctaw love to be called Choctaw, for a simple reason: It's what they are.

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charleymccoy's picture
Submitted by charleymccoy on
I use, as a general rule N8V. I know LuAnne's heritage, and wouldn't have thought a thing about it, she wears it well most days. But yes, I myself become outraged when Cindy Whitey-McWhiterson with freaking Mayflower roots, comes in her own uppity way, to "my" defense. I say be sensitive, but censor only yourself, cause you're the only one who's going to be standing there in the end.

taian54's picture
Submitted by taian54 on
The word Indian was first used by Columbus when he reached the new world and he thought he was in India. He saw its people and called the indios. Spanish for Indians. He reached my island, Puerto Rico and what he did. The people weren't Indians but Tainos.

marklaroux's picture
Submitted by marklaroux on
2 hundred years ago, native Americans were just called 'Americans' and the immigrants that arrived here were called European times change. Like it or not, indians is what is used, if a tribe is not known. There is a related situation in Louisiana calling someone a cajun or a coonass: you can call me a cajun whether you know me or not, but if you don't know me don't call me a coonass (even if I am one). It's a 'shared heritage' word, like some others.

curious's picture
Submitted by curious on
So far the so called Countess has NO PROOF of her claims. A geneology report showed NO NATIVE ANCESTORS.Can you verify her claims?

eqqumiitsuliortoq's picture
Submitted by eqqumiitsuliortoq on
Regardless of her actual heritage, she does not appear to have any connection to any Native community, or know anything about Native history or being indigenous today, which are most important. At least I have never seen any evidence of this. If she did she would not have made the obscene "scalping" joke or the "woowoo" sound. And she wouldn't be with a man who holds his hand up and says "hau" and says that in French Indians would just be called "savage". That segment was a whole spectrum of white, from paternalistic "political correctness" to bemusement to "exotic" fetishism, with ignorance all around. It's completely possible that her father was Indian, opinion about Luann given how she has presented herself is, I think we've got a case of Indian Great Grandmother Syndrome on our hands.

larrymoniz's picture
Submitted by larrymoniz on
I'm delighted to read this article because, in the past, I've seen so much misinformation on the topic. To cite a few more specific examples there's the Cherokee Nation, the Oneida Nation and the Seneca Nation of Indians. I suspect there are many more than also have the word "Indian" as part of their official name. However, perhaps it's the sensitivity of American Indians to various terms that has created this non-Indian effort to achieve political correctness at any cost.