Why Do Native Americans Have Those Weird Names?

Red Arrow, Wooden Lance, First to Dance, The mighty Falcon, A beautiful Deer, Maker of Rivers. Have you ever wondered what’s the deal with native American names? I mean, how do someone gets his or her name?

Well, we’ve decided to look into it and as it turns out, the native American naming tradition is quite deep with psychological, social and spiritual dimensions.

Here’s how it goes. (the article continues after the ad)

In modern day societies, people are given a name at birth which they carry throughout their life. And hit makes sense, right? Can you imagine a society in which people would have changed their names 2-3 times in a lifespan? That’s impossible nowadays.


Native American names though do change over the course of a person’s life. A child is given a name at birth which is usually descriptive. However, that name may change at adolescence and again during adult life according to the person’s accomplishments and life experiences.

As explained by Mohegan, W.S. Brooke, in an interview to Psychology Today“Some people are like lakes. They change very little as they age. (…) Some people are like rivers. When you trace the Mississippi, or any other river at its source, it can be very small. Later on it can be wide and strong. When it meets the ocean, it spreads out.”

Simply said, names change as the individual changes. For example, a boy who’s named “Little black eyes” at birth, might be called “The White Falcon” during his adult life if he showed some hunting skills. However, if he later on became an exceptional leader, his name will again change to something like “The Mighty Falcon They Talk About”(the article continues after the ad)

Recommended: Why Are Native Americans Called Indians?


Each element has a symbolism and bestows certain powers. As explained by Gabriel Horn who was given the name White Deer of Autumn“The power of the deer is its awareness, its keenness, and its protective nature. The white is purity, purity of heart, mind, and words. Autumn, I was told, is a time when change is most visible. It’s a time when change is at its most powerful. And so, I was named for that season.”

The idea is that people don’t just stuck with the name they were given at birth. Their name will change as they evolve and this is a motivation for people to achieve goals as they grow.

Interesting indeed!

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: How European Germs And Diseases Killed 25 Million Native Americans In Just 30 Years 

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Main Article Photo:  wsilver / Flickr
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: Native American Names | Names and Identity: The Native American Naming Tradition | The Multifaceted Native American Naming Tradition | Native American Names

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