On the Trail
What's in a Name
For many years, Native Americans were forbidden to speak in their traditional languages, and children attending school on reservations were taught in English only. This changed in 1990 with the Native American Languages Act, which recognized the traditional languages as an integral part of the Native American culture and supported their use for “the transmission and survival of Native American cultures, literatures, histories, religions, political institutions, and values.”
The list of names that appears here includes names that are in fairly wide use today, which makes them acceptable choices for anyone searching for a name of Native American derivation. Where the tribe of origin is known, you'll find it noted.
- Brant: This Old English name meaning “proud” was also the last name of Joseph Brant, the Mohawk chieftain who lead the Iroquois tribes into Canada after the American Revolution.
- Chaska: “First-born son” (Sioux).
- Chenoa: “White dove.”
- Cherokee: Native American tribal name.
- Cheyenne: Native American tribal name.
- Cholena: “Bird” (Delaware).
- Chula: “Fox.”
- Chumani: “Dewdrops” (Sioux).
- Cree: Native American tribal name. Country-western singer Cree Summer takes her name from this tribe.
- Dakota: “Friends” or “allies.”
- Dyani: “Deer.”
- Halona: “Fortunate.”
- Isanti: “Knife” (Sioux).
- Kai: “Willow tree” (Navajo).
- Kiona: “Brown hills.”
- Lomasi: “Pretty flower.”
- Nocona: “Camper” or “wanderer” (Comanche).
- Odina: “Mountain” (Algonquin).
- Oneida: “Expected.”
- Tadi: “Wind” (Omaha).
- Tahatan: “Hawk” (Sioux).
- Taima: “Crash of thunder” (Fox).
- Talisa: “Beautiful water” (Creek).
- Takoda: Sioux name derived from Dakota, with the same meaning.
- Tama: “Beautiful” (Fox).
- Tanis: “Little daughter” (Cree).
- Tawa: “Sun” (Hopi).
- Tuwa: “Earth” (Hopi).
- Winona: “First-born daughter” (Sioux).
- Wyanet: “Beautiful.”
- Wynono: “First-born son.”
- Wyome: “Large prairie” (Algonquin). This name is the basis for Wyoming.
- Yuma: “Son of the chief.”
More on: Choosing a Name
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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