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Jedediah tensed in his seat as he realized what was waiting ahead.
"What is it, Jed?" Mamie asked.
"There's a tribe camped out at the river crossing."
Mamie clucked her tongue against her teeth. "And? So?"
"It's just ... you know."
Jed felt a punch land on his upper arm. "Jedediah Quimby! Are you afraid of these people? Do you know how racist that is? It's the year 1845, for God's sake!"
"No! No, Mamie, it's not that. It's kind of the opposite, I guess."
"How's that?" Mamie's voice was laced with suspicion.
"Well, I just ... I don't know whether to refer to them as 'Indians' or as 'Native Americans.' I feel like neither their community nor the dominant discourse has come to a consensus on the issue, and I've been worried about this for the whole trip. I'm going to get it wrong, just watch, and they'll be so offended."
Mamie went quiet for a few seconds. "It's not ‘Native American?' I'm pretty sure that's what most people go with."
"I dunno, Mamie, that one just kind of sounds like some academic grasping at straws. In a way, it could be even more offensive, you know?"
The two of them sat in silence as their wagon drew closer to the camp. When they finally pulled up to the site, a man in a breechcloth and leggings emerged from the nearest tent.
"How," said Jedediah.
"How what?" replied the man.
Jedediah scrambled to cover his tracks. "Uh, how are you today?"
The man didn't answer the question. In a bored tone, he asked, "Will you need help crossing here?"
"Yes," said Jed. "What will you require in a trade? I've never traded with a ... um ..." he trailed off, mortified.
The man perked up and fixed Jed with an amused stare. "A what?"
"Well, uh, a group of you guys, you know?"
"No, I don't," said the man. "Shoshone?"
"Y - yeah," said Jed, relieved. "Shoshone. I've never traded with Shoshone before."
"You know, that term is offensive to us," said the man.
Jed froze in place. Oh, no. He felt beads of sweat forming on his back and forehead.
"Oh. I'm sorry. Really, I am. I didn't mean to offend you. What do you prefer to be called?"
"Newe, huh? It sounds very beautiful. What does it mean? Or does the meaning not translate into English?"
"It means ‘people.'"
The man examined his nails for a moment before addressing Jed again. "We don't require any kind of trade. We'll just help you on your way. We're glad to help you folks out."
Jed, appropriately shamed, hopped off the seat and helped Mamie get down as well. The two of them followed the man as he led them to a shallow bend in the river, and, after calming the horses, they successfully waded across.
Standing on the opposite shore with their clothing soaked, Jed and Mamie checked to be sure that they hadn't lost anything to the river. Satisfied that everything was in its place, Jed turned and waved to the man who had helped them.
The man returned his wave halfheartedly and began to walk away. Before he was out of sight, another man in similar garb emerged from the nearest tent and seemed to ask him a question. The first man responded, and they both began snickering and looking at Jed, who promptly turned away and acted like he hadn't noticed.
Mamie caught the look of embarrassment on his face and asked what had happened. "Nothing," said Jed. "Let's just get back on the move."