Norway’s major encyclopedia of record, Store norske leksikon (SNL), has decided to stop using the term Indianer (Indians) when referring to North America’s various groups of indigenous people. SNL’s editor denies it’s more an attempt to be “as precise as possible,” than to be politically correct.
“After 500 years, it’s time to respond to the fact that Christopher Columbus wrongly thought he was in India after he’d crossed the Atlantic,” claimed Erik Bolstad, editor in chief of the encyclopedia that wields great power over definitions in Norway.
In a commentary published on NRK.no Monday afternoon, Bolstad referred to all the negative reaction after Finance Minister Siv Jensen dressed up as Pocahontas for a costume party earlier this autumn. “While some felt offended, on behalf of themselves and others, others were sounding off about overly exaggerated political correctness,” Bolstad wrote. “Identity engages many people, and for us who live off of defining the reality around us in an encyclopedia, this poses many challenges.”
Groups that have long been called “Native Americans” in the US will now be referred to as den amerikanske urbefolkningen (the American indigenous people) in Norway’s leading encyclopedia backed by the country’s universities. It now attracts around 2 million unique visitors a month to its online version.
SNL has also dropped some other terms and words including hottentotter (now khoi-khoi) and sukkersyke, the latter being the word long used for diabetes in Norway, “because we now know it’s blamed as much on heritage and environment as sugar,” according to Bolstad.