Ask Ellen: Can we call this an ‘Indian Summer’?

Ask Ellen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Usually our “Ask Ellen” segment focuses on meteorological phenomena and how they form. This week, we focus in on a question that several viewers have shot our way about the term “Indian Summer.”

Not only did our viewers want to know if our warm stretch could be defined as an Indian Summer, many also asked if it is still considered an appropriate term.

To start, an Indian Summer was previously defined by the American Meteorological Society as a stretch of unusually sunny and warm weather following the first freeze. The November heat wave West Michigan just experienced would absolutely fall into this category.

Recent High Temperatures for Grand Rapids

If we look at climate data for the four different cities in our area that take the most detailed weather reports, a total of nineteen new records were set by this surge in temps.

All of this happened after an official frost. So, by past definitions, the warm stretch that just unfolded would be considered an Indian Summer.

Now comes the question of appropriateness of the term. For this, we checked with a local tribe and also the American Meteorological Society.

According to the meteorological dictionary, the term is now considered to be outdated.

“The use of this term is discouraged. It is considered a relic of the past and disrespectful of Native American people. The recommended term to describe this phenomena is Second Summer,” the American Meteorological Society dictionary says.

Also, note this term was recently updated by the American Meteorological Society on Oct. 25. Previously, the definition didn’t mention the potential disrespectfulness of the term and only included details on how it was historically defined.

We also wanted to check with local tribesman in the area. James Nye, spokesperson for the Gun Lake Tribe told News 8 that they personally don’t find the term offensive.

While local Native Americans say this term would not offend them if used, the recent change by the American Meteorological Society reveals that this will likely become a phrase that fades with time.

Instead, the term “Second Summer” is suggested as a replacement by the society.

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