Native American Baby Names

Native American baby names should not be chosen lightly. Although there are many names listed as Native American in baby books or online, a majority of these names are not truly of Native American origin. To make matters worse, some of the names that are correctly identified as of Native American origin have incorrect or completely made up meanings.

How Native American Babies Are Named
In traditional Native American cultures, names are given out based on different criteria. Sometimes the name is based on the parents' family or clan. In some cases, the baby is not named until the child reaches puberty, experiences a rite of passage or makes a certain accomplishment. In some Native American tribes, an elder of the tribe is the only person with the ability to hand down names.

Choosing a Proper Name
If you decide to give your baby a Native American name, keep in mind that many Native Americans find it disrespectful to name a child with the name of a tribe, such as Cheyenne, Dakota or Sioux. These tribal names are sacred. Just as we wouldn't name a child God, they wouldn't name a child Lakota.

One way to make sure you get a truly Native American name is to research your family history. If you are of Native American descent, speak with the elders of your tribe to determine a proper name for your child.

If you are not Native American but love the idea of a Native American name, you can do one of the following:

You can choose an American Style name inspired by Native American heritage. Names such as Kateri (a variation of Catherine) or Atian (a variation of Stephen) are examples of English names that have a Native American version.

Other Native American variants of English and French names include the following:

  • Magi: Michael
  • Meli: Mary
  • Biyen: Peter

You could also choose a name that is inspired by the Native American culture. This is not a traditional name by any means, but it is a way of making a connection with the Native American culture.

Names from Native American Sources

  • Aponi: Blackfoot for butterfly
  • Chaske: Sioux nickname for first son
  • Chetan: Sioux for hawk
  • Lomasi: Hopi for good flower
  • Nizhoni: Navajo for beautiful
  • Tanis: Cree for daughter
  • Tyee:Chinook Jargon word for chief
  • Winona: Sioux for first daughter

If you are in doubt about the authenticity of a Native American name or worried about the appropriateness of a name, you can contact a local tribal elder to discuss whether you should use it. 

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