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"Native American' stumps students

So much for political correctness: American Indians are back to being American Indians at Holyoke Community College, where lots of students took "Native American" to mean something else altogether.

The 5,500-student school changed a category on its student questionnaire from "American Indian" to "Native American" in the fall of 1990.

"We tried to be sensitive and we just ended up confusing everyone," Elaine Ironfield, vice president of institutional development said Tuesday.

"We concluded that some students checked off the box thinking that we were asking them if they were native-born American citizens."

The year before the change, five incoming students listed themselves as American Indians. The year after the change, 50 students listed themselves as Native Americans, a number that grew to 75 in the 1992-93 academic year.

That meant Holyoke had twice the percentage of "Native Americans" _ on paper _ of any other college or university in Massachusetts. The U.S. Census Bureau lists 102 American Indians living in this old mill city of 43,700 people.

Just seven new students listed themselves as American Indians this academic year, when the school switched back to the old category.