The Bastardization of Native American Names

On our page, after the Thanksgiving holiday, we asked our page with much hesitation what their favorite Native American names were. I did specifically ask people to be careful, and keep respect for authenticity. Our friend Hazel said:

Kai – Navaho; willow tree
Kaya – Hopi; my elder sister
Luna – Zuni, Span; the moon
Lusita – Zuni, Span; bringer of light
Malila – Miwok; salmon going fast up a rippling stream
Mika – Ponka; the knowing racoon
Nascha – Navaho; owl
Nita – Choctaw; bear
Nova – Hopi; chasing a butterfly

. . . So many more but don’t have time I’m not American, these are from a book, so cannot verify myself.

Luna and Lusita are definitely not Native American, but maybe used by the population due to Spanish influence. Kaya does not mean elder sister in Hopi. The Malila thing is so ridiculous I can’t believe it. The Miwok word for salmon is ko-sum, btw. Mika does come from Ponca & related languages but only means “raccoon”… “knowing” is a romanticism. Ne-ahs-jah is the Navajo word for owl (close…). Nova is the Hopi word for “food”. These were made up by white people.


Nita is Choctaw for bear, so that was right. Kʼai is Navajo for willow (close enough?).

Baby name books or sites in general do not respect Native languages (or anything non-Euro, for that matter), so this is what I cautioned about.
Don’t trust those.

Usually I hesitate to bring up Native American names here, and this is why. I truly love real Native American names, but so much misinformation is out there that if the topic comes up, I’m going to have to make some corrections. We just had Thanksgiving in the States, so I wanted to suck it up and do it, but what a dishonor we are still doing to the people with the BS that gets circulated. No offense, but I’m kind of glad Hazel ran out of time– less work for me!

Please remember that usually Native American words are longer than English words, so if something has some long elaborate meaning, it would take a lot more syllables than 2 or 3 to express that thought.

Most baby name books you really can’t trust, in varying degrees. Some are 75% garbage, some are only 5% untrue. I’d recommend mine, but it hasn’t been published yet! Mine isn’t really a dictionary per se, either… but I digress. Before you choose a Native American name, do a little legwork and find out about the language you are taking from– make sure via cross referencing that you have an authentic name/word with correct pronunciations and respect for the culture and their language. If you can’t do that, honestly a Native name should not even appeal to you at all. And don’t pick one because you “are” “Native American” unless you’ve confirmed via DNA test or were raised in Native culture, since family legend has us all part Cherokee princess.

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3 responses

  1. Pingback: The Bastardization of Native American Names | N...

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