How Do I Obtain A Native Name?


To self-select a Native name requires much thought and deliberation. For a self-selected name can represent a physical attribute, or a personal characteristic or persona. Sometimes the self-selected name contains a color, animal or some item of nature. For example, a man of wiry/sleek build might self-select the name “Black Fox”. Or a woman who enjoys singing might self-select the name “Song Bird”. Each of these names describes the person who self-selected it.


To have a given Native name requires the acceptance of a family Native name. This is very similar to being born with a Native surname or Native origin lastname. It requires only acknowledging the name is Native in its origin. For example a native surname is “Cornplanter”, as in James Cornplanter. This given name describes an occupation or role of the Native person.

To have a bestowed Native name requires a Native elder to confer or present you with a Native name. This is sometimes done in a formal ceremony or family gathering. A bestowed name has great significance because it comes from an elder, a respected person, or a person believed to be wise.  

Generally, a self-selected; a given; or a bestowed Native name is a public name. It is a name that you are known by publicly. That means that it is a name that your family, friends, and acquaintances refer to you. It is included when writing your name. For example, John “Black Fox” Williams or Mary “Song Bird” Reed are Native names included in the writing of ones name.  

Also, people translate their Native name into their Native American language. For example if John “Black Fox” Williams was Cherokee, he would be known as “Tsu la  Gv-na-ge-i”        (Fox Black) pronounced “Chew la   Guh nah gay ee”. Note the adjective in some instances follows the noun in Cherokee.

There is much more that could be said about obtaining a Native name. To learn more about obtaining a Native name join the “Black Red Roots Community”.  

 Article by: CherokeeCloud

 Written: August 23, 2006

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