William Hamilton: Growing up diverse: What’s in a name?
July 27, 2011
For this writer, growing up in an area of cultural diversity was a “built-in” blessing. While we had families whose ancestors came from the British Isles, Germany, Poland, Spain, Africa, and Scandinavia. Our main claim to fame was that our town was and is known as the “Indian Capital of the Nation.”
Back in those times, we thought we were getting to play Cowboys and Indians, and with real Indians; however, after the Political Correctness Movement came along, it turns out that we had actually been playing Cowboys and Native Americans. We just didn’t know it at the time.
Actually, “Indian” was a misnomer by Christopher Columbus arising from the fact that naval navigation circa 1492 A.D. did not have the benefit of timepieces able to withstand the rigors of shipboard life and, therefore, they could not measure Longitude, i.e. how far a ship had been sailing in either a westerly or an easterly direction.
Columbus did, however, know his Latitude (distance between the North and South Poles). The Greek geographer/mathematician, Claudius Ptolemy (90-170 A.D.), solved that part of the navigation problem long before the time of Columbus. Ptolemy figured out how to measure the angle between the true horizon and the sun at noon and, from that angle, derive one’s Latitude between the North and South Poles.
However, precise Longitude could not be determined until 1773 when the Englishman John Harrison perfected his marine chronometer – a relatively rugged sea-going clock that allowed sailors to know how long they had been sailing from the Prime Meridian at Greenwich, England. Back in 1492, Columbus had no idea how long he had been sailing westward. He mistook the islands of the Caribbean for India and named the natives: Indians. (For more on Longitude: See: Dava Sobel’s Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time.)
All this Indian versus Native American stuff seemed of little concern to my grade-school chums who actually preferred to be thought of according to their tribal names, which could be Kiowa, Comanche, Western Delaware, Wichita, Arapahoe, Caddo, or Apache. As kids were wont to do back then, we thought it was a fun thing to become blood brothers.
We probably got the idea from the Saturday picture shows, which featured a lot of Cowboys and Indians. Not Cowboys and Native Americans. Some of my Kiowa and Comanche pals decided it would be a good idea to make me a blood brother. This involved nicking our wrists with a knife (careful not to do any real damage) and mixing a few drops of our blood. The idea appealed to me because some of my chums had some really cool names such as: Running Deer or Running Bear or Running Beaver or Running Fox. But, because I suffered from allergic rhinitis, I was afraid they were going to call me: Running Nose.
Fortunately, my pals must have been psychic. They could not have known that years later, after taking a test called the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory, yours truly would be classified as an INTJ which stands for: Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking and Judgmental. In other words, a person who acts more on intuition, who is driven rapidly to come to conclusions and takes action rather than worry about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. In short: a person who makes quick decisions and then crashes forward into almost every endeavor.
Somehow, my Kiowa and Comanche chums perceived those traits already and they named me: Crashing Boar. Or, was it: Crashing Bore? In any event, they never made that clear. Of course, readers are free to make up their own minds about that.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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