After complaints from an anthropologist, the Globe and Mail will now capitalize “First Nation” in stories and update its style book, according to Globe and Mail public editor Sylvia Stead.
While Stead explained the Canadian newspaper’s standards called for First Nation to only be capitalized if it is part of a “band’s formal name” like “the Kettle Point First Nation,” the reader, Michael Asch, argued that First Nation is replacing the identifier “Indian,” which is always capitalized.
Stead quoted Asch’s explanation, which prompted the newspaper’s editors to officially change its stylebook:
“People once identified (perhaps even self-identified) as ‘Indians’ now use the term to describe themselves collectively and individually. And, when they do that in writing, it is always using capital letters – that is, it strikes me that it is being used as a substitute for the word ‘Indian’ which is always capitalized. Therefore it is the matter of equivalence. To change what they say is ‘First Nations’ to ‘first nations’ is to change ‘Indians’ to ‘indians.’ In short, if it is a mistake not to capitalize ‘Indians,’ than it is a mistake not to capitalize ‘First Nations.’”
iMediaEthics wrote earlier this month about First Nations’ protesting the Western Canadian newspaper The Nanaimo Daily News after it published a letter to the editor claiming they “never had a written language,” “have a history that is notable only for underachievement” and “are just in the last 200 years getting caught-up to most of the rest of the world.”
While the paper later unpublished and apologized for the letter, some — including professor emerita of ethics and identity Valerie Alia and Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president Cliff Atleo — told iMediaEthics the apology isn’t enough.