The term "Indian giver" is used to refer to a person who gives another person some kind of gift and then either takes it back, requests a reciprocal payment or wishes for the gift to be returned. The gift could be financial, material or in the form of some kind of service. This term, which is used mostly in the United States, is considered offensive by some people.
Initially, an Indian giver might not express that he or she is looking for reciprocation. In fact, the giver often expresses concern and what seems like genuine consideration for others. The recipient is then made to believe that the implied donor is providing the gift out of kindness or the desire to do good things for the benefit of mankind.
In time, however, the giver will let it be known to the receiver that he or she really had an ulterior motive. He or she might do this subtly with "friendly reminders" of the favor or might openly ask for something in return. If he or she does not receive what was requested, the giver will express discontent with the receiver as if he or she has done something wrong. The recipient is often left feeling confused, guilty or angry enough to return the gift.
It is unclear how the term "Indian giver" originated. One theory is that the expression was first used by European settlers in North America. Perhaps when the settlers received assistance and goods from the native Indians, they mistook such things for gifts when they were intended to be items of trade and barter. When the Indians demanded that their items be returned or some kind of service be given back, the settlers might have started using "Indian giver" and "Indian gift" as derogatory terms.
Some people speculate that the Indians could have been attempting to trade the gifts and services in exchange for keeping some of their sacred lands. The settlers might not have made good on their part of the bargain, which could have prompted the Indians to attempt to retrieve their gifts. Some people theorize that it was actually the settlers who were being dishonest and deceitful.
The first known published use of the term "Indian giver" was in 1765 by Thomas Hutchinson in his book The history of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. This term also was cited in 1860 by John Russell Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms. By the early 21st century, its use generally was frowned upon for being politically incorrect.