August 08, 2009

The most common Indian names

Most common last names for American Indians and Alaskan Natives in the U.S.

1 Smith
2 Johnson
3 Begay
4 Yazzie
5 Locklear
6 Jones
7 Williams
8 Brown
9 Davis
10 Wilson
11 Thompson
12 Thomas
13 Miller
14 Jackson
15 White
16 Martin
17 Lee
18 Hunt
19 James
20 Lewis

I have no idea how the author compiled this list. I wouldn't have thought the US Census compiled or released data such as this. But let's assume the list is valid and take a look at it.

With the exception of two Navajo names (Begay, Yazzie) and a Lumbee name (Locklear), Indians have roughly the same last names as everyone else. There are no Soaring Eagles or Dances with Wolves in the top 20.

Because the Navajo tribe is so big, we continue to see a smattering of Navajo names. For instance, these names in the 21-200 range:

26 Benally
28 Tsosie
35 Nez
51 Joe
64 Chee
71 Jim
74 Charley
91 Sam
94 Curley
105 Tso
110 Tom
143 Billy
155 Bahe
157 Begaye

And a smattering of other names that knowledgeable people would recognize as Indian. For instance, these names in the 21-500 range::

113 Harjo
149 Antone
227 Cloud
244 Tiger
257 Billie
297 Platero
299 Vigil
303 Lyons
305 Pino
401 Gorman
431 Tenorio
433 Lujan
449 Peltier
472 Vann
488 Cornelius

But classic "Indian names" are well down the list. There aren't many of them. And they're usually one or two simple words, not a whole phrase.

292 Bear
302 Eagle
323 Beaver
338 Yellowhair
357 Wolf
391 Manygoats
458 Crow
536 Hawk
540 Claw
543 Silversmith
594 Roanhorse
657 Blackwater
683 Whiteeagle
901 Rainwater
944 Warrior
974 Thunder

Finally, there's this well-known Indian name:

527 Schmidt

Conclusion: When you see a "Indian name" like Bright Hawk or Spirit Wolf or Medicine Eagle, it's almost always made up. Real Indians usually don't have names like this.

For more on the subject, see Duluth Shop Sells "Drunk Indian" Shirts.

Below:  Heather Locklear, part Lumbee.


GENO1492 said...

As for the surname "Thompson", I believe they got this one from the Western Shoshone Tribe of Nevada(I may be wrong). As I am descendent of this tribe, there is a large family base, with this surname--"Thompson"(just like the Yazzies/Begays of the Navajo). Although, I don't share their last name but many of them are cousins and distant relatives of mine.

alarob said...

Another page on the site attributes the data to the 1990 Census: “The following tables include all surnames with over 0.001% frequency in the US population during the 1990 census. ... Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, Population Analysis & Evaluation Staff"

The column headed “Occurrences per 100,000 people” seems to have been munged somehow. The numbers are meaningless. Maybe decimal points and zeroes got stripped away at some point.

Rob said...

I think Thompson is a popular surname with non-Indians as well as Indians, Geno. But yes, the Western Shoshones may have helped boost the Thompson numbers.

You're right, A la Rob. The "Occurrences per 100,000 people" column doesn't make much sense. The numbers should be proportional to those in the "Number of occurrences" column. Restating a number as the number of occurrences per 100,000 simply means multiplying it by 100000/300000000 (or a similar fraction).

But I'm not sure the column is meaningless. Look at it again. The biggest numbers are for the "real" Indian names--the names associated primarily with Indians. My guess is that this column shows the names' rankings among all Americans.

If I'm right, Smith and Johnson are ranked #1 and #2 on both lists. Begay is #3 on the Indian list but #2066 on the overall list. Thompson is #11 on the Indian list, perhaps because of the Western Shoshones, but #19 overall. And so on.

Anonymous said...

Form what I understand There where also many Tribes that "had" to adopt Western names because the pronunciation of their given Native name couldn't be written phonetically using Western characters from the alphabet...the Government came around and basically said "You're Thompson, Smith, Jones..."