Indian Giver?

Anyone know the history of this expression? From what I understand of its meaning, it would be much more appropriate to call someone something to the effect of pale-face giver. What gives?


Once in a while you can get shown the light
in the strangest of places
if you look at it right…

Cecil has addressed this.

Livin’ on Tums, vitamin E and Rogaine

Ya mean it wasn’t the 1910 Fruit Gum Company?

Boy I know I’ve seen a a better explaination than that, and I could have sworn it was in a Dope book.
It went something like the old Manhattan bridge grift:
Back in colonial days, Chief Shifty-Eyes sells the English a parsel of land for a few trinkets. He then sells the same land to the French. Later, it turns out that his tribe really never squatted on the land, and therefore were not the owners in the first place, and finally, the tribe doesn’t even have the same concepts of land ownership as Europeans suckers.

I’m very disappointed I can’t come up from with a reference, but cant remember the specifics. I’m sure I read it in a research collumn but the very fact that CA didn’t find it leads me to suspect it could be fable, or racist propaghanda.


Given that the story you quoted very neatly dovetails into the negative use of “indian” as an adjective meaning “false,” you may want to give serious consideration to your last conjecture, there.



Scolded even after I freely admit the entire thing could be a malicious fabrication. (On someone elses part of course)

Well try to choke on your crow there.

The story although somewhat botched in the tellin, appears to be more or less true as well.

It turns out, It was the actual island of Manhattan sold to the Dutch(I dont know where I got French and English) for ~$72 by the Canarsie indians, who did not really live there to begin with. And a portion of the land had to be later repurchased from another group of Indians who apparently lay more legitimate claim to it.

The article goes on to say that the Raritan indians sold Staten Island six times.

Technicaly this would be “Indian Selling” I suppose, but the Its mine-It yours-Its mine again angle is definitly there.
Cecil Adams,“Return of The Straight Dope”
Ballantine Books, New York,pp. 156-159 (1994)
This is the word of Cecil.

When Coronado first visited the Pueblo area in Arizona and New Mexico, the Indians offered him clothing and food. Being hungry and cold, he and his men took them. This caused a little irritation to the Indians because the proper thing to do, in their way of life, was to give presents back. I can’t extrapolate this to any other tribes but it might have been a widespread custom, maybe what CA was refering to as “Indian Gift”. Such differences born of cultural misunderstandings, ways of life so very different, voids in the way of looking at life and interacting with your fellow humans that are unfathomable and uncrossable. Sort of the way I feel about tomndeb seeing incipient cross burnings in every other post.

I see incipient cross burnings in only one out of four posts. Sometimes I see spray-painted swastikas.

falcon2, I’m sorry you took that as scolding. As I noted, you provided the conjecture on racist propaganda and I was agreeing with that.

I actually came at the subject from a linguistic perspective. I suspect that it is more probable that a modifier like “indian” will enter the language as a general epithet reflecting general attitudes rather than from a specific event. I would expect an event to lend its own name to a term. (If we had a phrase “Manhattan sale,” that would seem to have arisen from the various exchanges for the island.) Terms such as “Chinese fire drill” and “Dutch auction” reflect stereotypical perceptions of another culture. Terms coming from specific events would include “making Mafeking” and “crossing the Rubicon.” In that context, the documented use of the term “indian” as “false” seems to have more going for it than a specific sale of an island or a missed opportunity to exchange gifts.


I remember the phrase, “Indian manners” but I’m sure it applied to something English not American and India the sub-continent not Indians from America.

It was a negative comment and could easily have meant “false manners” or “poor manners” or even saying the right words but not meaning it.

Oh, I’m gonna keep using these #%@&* codes 'til I get 'em right.