Native American Names

Native Americans were the first true settlers in what is now known as the United States.

Native Americans were the first true settlers in what is now known as the United States. So it stands to reason that many names, for both places and people, have a Native American background. But did you know that some people who think they have an Indian name really don’t?

What likely has happened is that these people’s ancestors heard some Native American names or language and tried to duplicate the name. When something like this happens, the original Native American name or word is misspelled and mispronounced repeatedly, and thus the translation and true name is lost.

Every so often, names with other backgrounds like Greek or Spanish sometimes had a unique flair and were often mistaken for a Native American name. In addition, authors who wrote about the history of the Indians as well as the fiction books romanticizing the days of the Old West often made up names that sounded like Native American names.

To get a true Native American name, you would have to consult with a living tribal elder. And of course, if you are not a true Native American and living near a tribal community, chances are that this is not an option. What you could do is conduct a little research on the internet of common Native American words and sayings. Pick a few that sound pleasing to the ear and would make a great name.

But before you bestow any Native American name on a child, make sure you find out what the name of phrase you’ve researched means. For instance, you could have named your daughter something pretty and exotic-sounding like Tolinka or Malia. But did you know that Tolinka in the Miwok language means “a coyote’s flapping ear” and Malia in the Zuni language means “bitter?” Your kids will thank you later if you do your research before you give them a Native American name.

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