Saturday, October 25, 2008

On Warm Fall Weather

It has been a lovely fall here in Ottawa. Besides the glorious colours associated with this season -- the reds and oranges have been stunning -- the weather has been warm and above all, bright and sunny. But this isn't a post about the weather. A few of my friends have referred to the weather as a sure sign of "Indian Summer", a term that very commonly refers to warm fall weather in Canada and apparently in the U.S.

There are a few historical reasons generally referenced for this usage, but the most common refers to the perceived deceitfulness of indigenous peoples towards Europeans. In other words, the phrase belongs in the same family of terms such as "Indian giver," which is based on this dubious duplicity. Therefore, in this usage, "Indian summer" would be a "deceitful and treacherous" imitation of summer, which appears to be a return of warmer weather but is really a relatively short-lived "lie" giving way to the "truth" of the usual cold and unpleasant conditions.

My point is not simply to debunk this usage or to list the many ways in which it is terribly inept. Instead, I'm writing this because when I hear people use the term "Indian Summer" I have a sudden jolt of pain run through my body and I thought I'd share why. Can we think of other terms that would suitably replace said term without relying on colonial frameworks? I trust with a little imagination we can...