January 27, 2011

Wannabes use colonizers' names

A good essay criticizes the romanticized names made up to make people seem "Indian":

So what is in a name, is this why you change your name to be more Indian

By Juan B. ManciasTwo Hawks, Running Turtle, Standing Bear, Raven Hawk, Beautiful Painted Arrow, Little Bear, Fire Horse, Fire Dog, Black Eagle, Two Feathers, Crazy Horse, Wild Horse Woman, Eagle Chief etc. etc., names that are running rampant in the urban areas of South Texas. I am sure there are so many more names that are out there that would be indicative of an Indian Identity. But what about Furry Rabbit, Two Mice, No Lice, Don’t Know Who I Am, Lost in the White World, Two Cappuccinos, Triple Scoop of Strawberry, Two Bowls of Menudo, Dances with SUV, names more adequate for the times for urbanites that have found there identity without a connection to their ancestors or future generations.

No disrespect, on my part to those families who from birth carried their name with honor and pride, like the Standing Bear family and others names that too many are very sacred as well, like Crazy Horse. So the QUESTION still remains what is in a name? Another Question why do people change their names from Martinez to Two Feathers, Gutierrez to Two Hawks, Sandoval to Standing Bear and so on and so on? It is predicament that still baffles me.
And:for those who are going down to the court house and changing their name to Black Eagle, Cheyenne, Rain Man, Running Turtle, Walking Eagle, I say know your people, respect your people, respect the ancestors, and walk with your people. Don’t just change your name to accommodate the Colonizer Mentality and romanticize the comfortableness of the colonizers. We are Indian, because our people have survived an American Holocaust that no one wants to admit to.

So STOP changing your names in English to Crazy Horse, Black Horse, Standing Bear, and Running Water Woman and so on and so on. Just because you found you had Indian blood a few years ago and you needed to show how Indian you were you changed your name to make it more Indian. Saying, I am Jane “Running Dove” Jones does not make you more Indian today or tomorrow to me. You are still using the colonizer’s language.
Comment:  Obviously the made-up names are meant to suggest noble animals or natural forces. A Wild Horse Woman sounds mysterious and exciting. A Broken Kettle Woman sounds dull and domestic.

A thin line separates people who adopt sincere names such as Standing Bear or Black Eagle and people who make up joke names such as Runs with Beer or Hung Like a Horse. Indeed, the former practice helps make the latter practice unremarkable and acceptable. Yet these groups aren't going through a traditional naming rite or choosing a name the way Indians chose them. If they were, they'd end up with names like Furry Rabbit, Two Mice, or No Lice.

So both groups are bastardizing Indian naming traditions. One is doing it sincerely and the other is doing it insincerely, but the results are similar. Either way, an Indian tradition gets trivialized into the equivalent of a party game.

For more on the subject, see Phony Indian Baby Names, Real vs. Phony Indian Names, and The Most Common Indians Names.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tell anybody who calls their kid Cheyenne (Neither Cheyenne nor Tsitsina is an actual Cheyenne name.) that it comes from the French for dog (because it wsa a delicacy among the Cheyenne), so they just said their daughter was a bitch.