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Native American Names

Although the aboriginal peoples of North America frequently have shorter, more common, Christian names, traditional Native American names are derived from descriptions of nature, dreams, personal or tribal events, and traditional heritage.

Throughout their period of contact with white culture, Native Americans have been forced into adopting a foreign culture and tradition. The adoption of Christian names was part of that assimilation process.

Traditionally, Native American naming practices are substantially different than that of white cultures. For many tribes, names are bestowed on a person throughout his or her life, not just at birth. Many different rites of passage in a person's life such as birth, marriage and various personal accomplishments and experiences are commemorated in ceremonies.

There are no "common" Native American names because of the belief that each person is a distinct individual with a unique soul. The emphasis on a person's individuality dissuades the taking of a parent's name. However, the practice of naming a child after a proud event in one of the parents' life, which would display the child's proud heritage, is not uncommon.

Native American names are becoming increasingly popular with aboriginal peoples once again as their efforts to reestablish their original culture heritage has dramatically increased. Native American names are also becoming increasingly popular with those from other cultures. One reason for this interest is that Native American names permit meanings that are much deeper and personal than what a literal translation would imply.

This page was last modified on 16 May 2003.

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