Published on March 27, 2013 by Casey
Native American naming traditions, vary greatly from tribe to tribe. Native American Names are basically drawn from nature. However, Native American Baby names could also be descriptive or chosen as nicknames e.g. little black eyes. Native American Names might also be based on the gender and birth position of the baby. A baby name would change with adulthood, a person could have several names during his lifetime. Native American Names were often chosen to mark major events in life and could change with new achievements, life experiences and accomplishments. Names also included totem animals. Native American Names often had “so personal and sacred a meaning” that they were never used as familiar or ordinary address.
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The Native Americans did not have surnames or family names. However, some Native Indians do have two names: one name is never made public because of the power it would give another person over them. The Ojibway tribe of Native Indians once considered it dangerous to speak the name of their own husbands and wives.
The period of puberty in boys and girls was often the occasion of elaborate initiation ceremonies with symbolic new-births. The initiation ceremonies of young boys could often be in the fashion of difficult ordeals which might include isolation and solitary confinement, medicine taking, ritual bathing, ritual paintings and even physical torture.
The secret and sacred names were only known to the individual and the Medicine Man. When a member of Sioux tribe wanted to show respect to someone who is not related to him he says “uncle” or “grandfather”.
Some Native Americans adopted special customs and traditions which were specific to their tribe.
The Californian tribe of the Miwok choose a baby name based on the way a stream looked when the baby was born
The Hopi tribe of Arizona held a special ceremony 20 days after baby’s birth. They rubbed a baby with an ear of corn which symbolized the Mother Earth. The baby was then named when the first ray of sun hit his forehead.
The Navajo tribes of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and California revere their names so much that they are only used during ceremonies. In everyday life people would be referred to as “Father”, “Brother”, “Mother”, “Daughter” etc.
The Sioux (Lakota, Nakota and Dakota) have six classes of names: birth order, honour , special deed, nicknames, secret and spirit names. The first name is given based on the gender and birth position of the child. During life person gets several names.
Ancestors and the family have always been of great importance to Native American Indians. The history of each family would be handed down from one generation to another and would include details of the good deeds, important events, and honours of the family. The totem pole played an important role in this tradition to the the North Coast Native American Indians. Family history was visually displayed outside the home of every North Coast Native American Indian via a Totem Pole. The Totem Pole would immediately illustrate the importance and history of each family. Totem poles were made of logs which were carved with various symbols including animals, birds, and religious spirits.