Matt Lauer Calls Meredith Vieira an 'Indian Giver'


Matt Lauer recently joined Kris Jenner in the ranks of celebrities who use derogatory terms toward Native Americans without thinking. He called fellow Today correspondent Meredith Vieira an Indian giver on Monday's broadcast from the Olympics.

Lauer said jokingly to Vieira, "Don't be an Indian giver" when she tried to take back a pair of designer underwear from Stella McCartney she handed him. Watch the video here.

Rick Waters, Cherokee, with the American Indian College Fund, explains on that the term was coined over the struggle for land when Native Americans "had no concept of land ownership," and settlers would try to purchase land for trinkets.

The term is also sometimes misinterpreted to refer to white colonists, who “would give things to the Indians, only to take them back,” reports So, where did the term actually come from?

An early reference to it can be found in Thomas Hutchinson’s 1765 book The History of the Province of Massachusetts Bay: “An Indian gift is a proverbial expression, signifying a present for which an equivalent return is expected.”

But what it boils down to is misunderstandings. The first peoples of this country didn’t have money like the Europeans, they conducted trade using a barter system.

“To an Indian, the giving of gifts was an extension of this system of trade and a gift was expected to be reciprocated with something of equal value. Europeans, upon encountering this practice, misunderstood it, considering it uncouth and impolite,” reports “To them, trade was conducted with money and gifts were freely given with nothing expected in return. So this Native practice got a bad reputation among the white colonists of North America and the term eventually became a playground insult.”

By 1838, evidence that Indian giver had evolved into a playground insult can be found in the New-York Mirror on June 23 in an article discussing school children: “Among them are distinct species of crimes and virtues. I have seen the finger pointed at the Indian giver. (One who gives a present and demands it back again.)”

The term shows up again in 1860 in John Russell Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms: “When an Indian gives any thing, he expects to receive an equivalent, or to have his gift returned. This term is applied by children to a child who, after having given away a thing, wishes to have it back again.”

Whatever the terms origins, it's still a derogatory term and shouldn't be tossed around in everyday conversation, especially not on the Today show.

When Jenner used it in November 2011 referring to daughter Kim Kardashian's $2 million ring after splitting from Kris Humphries, the National Congress of American Indians issued a statement calling her use of the term "wrong and hurtful," and Jenner later apologized for using the term, saying she was "truly sorry."

Related articles:

Jenner Responds to 'Indian Giver' Backlash

What Do The Kardashians Have Against Indians?

NCAI Statement on Kris Jenner’s Use of ‘Indian Giver’ Calls for Observance of Native American Heritage Month

Kim Kardashian’s Mom ‘Hates an Indian Giver’

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husbandofmoonlight's picture
Submitted by husbandofmoonlight on
We here at North American Intertribal Missions, " NAIM ", do not use the misnomer, "Indian" when referring to anyone; except "Indians"--i.e. human beings that originated in India. It is something of a disturbing concept that ANY 'minority' would use a 'misnomer'--to address themselves; but the habit persists with many members of Native America. This reminds me of something I learned from a relative who was Native American and African American---during the sixties when African Americans were beginning to "assert their rights" and FORCED the dominate White Culture to surrender their control and pass legislation---the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Prior to that time 'white folks' often used the 'term 'Nigger' to refer to African Americans; if they do that now it is 'only in private'; the'd get a good 'slapping around' now if they used it in public; or to their face. The same should actually apply to Native America; but they do not have the "unity and solidarity' that the African Americans of the Civil Rights era had; or the term "Indian" would be the 'joke' that it actaully IS, instead of being used---indeed more often than the 'correct term', "Native American"---by SO MANY Native Americans. The "lack of unity" that the Native American people as a whole are presently exhibiting has been a detriment to their progress along their own evolutioinary journey; one that can be traced back as far as 15 thousand years. It has been interrupted by the Anglo/European/Judean/Christian invasion---IRONICALLY as a result of those invaders accidentally stumbling upon their "discovery"---and when they did they still would not believe that they had landed on a "new continent"----and insisted upon the use of "Indian" to describe the inhabitatants; since they foolishly at first believed they had landed in "India". Personally I laugh when someone askes me; "hey are you 'part' Indian"; and I answer no; "I'm mixed blood/mixed tribe Native American and Scottish"--- "Indians come from India". Or often when someone says to me "hey, Im part Indian"---I will ask; "oh yea, which PART" and while I visually scan their body, "of India does your PART come from?" As long as Native America continues to use the misnomer "Indian" to describe themseleves; the "dominate white culture will so as well". But then, as long as Native America is locked in the disunity they currently are; they will remain "prisoners of war" in their own home land; one they have occupied continuously for longer than the rest humanity can remember. The dominate White Culture----is simply a mark on the wall of our 'evolution'. They seem to be loosing their power (or they gave it away) to the Chinese---and they are exhibiting ALL of the classic signs of being on the brink of collapse. The sooner the better; and THEN perhaps Native America will find the unity they deserve and the future the dominate White Culture would deny them. The term "Indian" only reinforces the dominate White Culture's arrogance and ignorance and serves only THEM while it does nothing to encourage the unity that Native America deserves; and desperately needs. I also remember the "term" "Red Nigger" that was sometimes used by the "White Okies and Texans" during the 50s & 60s when I as coming of age; but they only did it "behind their backs"; or in private since those were the days when SOME Native Americans would show unity; and "kick um white buttocks when needed" -hahahahahaha So "Indian Giver"----has no meaning at all to me/us here at "NAIM": unless we give a gift to an "Indian"----then, it would apply. If you know ANY "Indians " that need a "gift" we'll be happy to "help out"---those folks in India have problems too.