Children’s Native American Names

Published on August 19, 2014 by Amy

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Native American Child Dancer
Native American Child Dancer

Among the Omaha a ceremony was observed shortly after the birth of a child that on broad lines reflects a general belief among the Native Americans.

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In the introductory chapter of this book the Native American’s feeling of unquestioning unity with nature is mentioned. The following Omaha ceremony and ritual furnish direct testimony to the profundity of this feeling. Its expression greets him at his birth and is iterated at every important experience throughout his life.

When an Omaha child is born the parents send to the clan that has charge of the rite of introducing the child to the Cosmos. The priest thus summoned comes to the tent wherein the infant lies and takes his stand just outside the door, facing the East. He raises his right hand, palm outward, to the sky, and in a clear ringing voice intones the following ritual:

Ho! Ye Sun, Moon, Stars, all ye that move in the heavens,
I bid you hear me!
Into your midst has come a new life;
Consent ye, I implore!
Make its path smooth, that it may reach the brow of the first hill!
Ho! Ye Winds, Clouds, Rain, Mist, all ye that move in the air,
I bid you hear me!
Into your midst has come a new life;
Consent ye, I implore!
Make its path smooth, that it may reach the brow of the second hill!
Ho! Ye Hills, Valleys, Rivers, Lakes, Trees, Grasses, all ye of the earth,
I bid you hear me!
Into your midst has come a new life;
Consent ye, I implore!
Make its path smooth, that it may reach the brow of the third hill!
Ho! Ye Birds, great and small, that fly in the air;
Ho! Ye Animals, great and small, that dwell in the forests;
Ho! Ye Insects that creep among the grasses and burrow in the ground,
I bid you hear me!
Into your midst has come a new life;
Consent ye, I implore!
Make its path smooth, that it may reach the brow of the fourth hill!
Ho! All ye of the heavens, all ye of the air, all ye of the earth,
I bid you hear me!
Into your midst has come a new life;
Consent ye, consent ye all, I implore!
Make its path smooth — then shall it travel beyond the four hills!

In this manner the child, the “new life,” was introduced to the Cosmos of which it was now a part. All the powers of the heavens and of the earth were invoked to render aid to the “new life” in its onward struggle over the rugged path that traverses the four hills of life, typifying Infancy, Youth, Maturity and Old Age.

An infant was merely a “new life,” it was wholly dependent upon others; no name was given it (only endearing terms were used), for the reason that a name implies either a sacred responsibility or a personal achievement, neither of which was possible to an infant. When, however, the child could go about alone, generally at three or four years of age, the time had arrived when it must be given a tribal name, one belonging to the rites in charge of its birth group. By means of this ceremonial act the child was inducted by sacred rites into the tribe and became a recognized member.

Giving the Child a Name

This ceremony, formerly practiced among the Omaha and cognate tribes, took place in the spring, “when the grass was up and the birds were singing.” A tent was set apart and made sacred by the priest who had the hereditary right to perform the ceremony. As the occasion was one of tribal interest, many people flocked to the scene of the rite.

A large stone was brought and placed on the east side of the fire that was burning in the center of the space inside the tent. When everything was ready the old priest stood at the door awaiting the arrival of the child. Then all the mothers who had children of the proper age wended their way to this tent, each one leading her little child, who carried in its hands a new pair of moccasins. As the two reached the tent the mother addressed the priest, saying: “Venerable man, I desire my child to wear moccasins.” (This was a symbolic form of expression.) “I desire my child to walk long upon the earth, to be content with the light of many days. We seek your protection!” The priest made a formal reply and the little one, carrying its moccasins, entered the tent alone. After a few ritualistic phrases the priest accompanied the child to the fire place, where he and the child stood facing the East while the priest sang an invocation to the Four Winds. He bade them to come hither and stand in this place in four groups.

At the close of this Ritual Song the priest lifted the child by the arms so that its little bare feet rested upon the stone, as it faced the South; then he lifted the child again by the arms and its feet rested on the stone, as it faced the West; again the child was lifted and its feet were upon the stone, as it faced the North; once more the priest lifted the child and its feet touched the stone, as it faced the East. Then the priest sang the following Ritual Song:

Turned by the Winds goes the one I send yonder,
Yonder he goes who is whirled by the Winds,
Goes where the four hills of life and the Four Winds are standing,
There into the midst of the Winds do I send him,
Into the midst of the Winds standing there!

This song and the entire ceremony, which is spoken of as “Turning the child,” are highly symbolic and cannot be fully explained at this time. The Winds are the messengers of the great invisible Wakon’da and bring the breath of life and strength to man. At the close of this song the priest put the new moccasins on the feet of the child and sang another Ritual Song which says:

Here unto you has been spoken the truth;
Because of this truth you shall stand.
Here declared is the truth;
Here in this place has been shown you the truth.
Therefore, arise! Go forth in its strength!

As the priest sang the last line he set the child on its feet and made it take four steps toward the East; these steps are typical of its now entering into life. Then the priest led the child to the entrance of the tent, where he called aloud the tribal name of the child, then for the first time proclaimed, adding:

“Ho! Ye Hills, ye Grass, ye Trees, ye creeping things, both great and small, I bid you hear! This child has thrown away its baby name! Ho!”

All the children of the tribe passed through this ceremony and in this way received their sacred personal names, which were never dropped throughout their after-life, not even when a man took a new name.

Source: apples4theteacher Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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