Popular Native American Names and the History of Naming

american origin names

While there are many cute American names, people are turning more frequently to Native American naming styles. Native American names for boys and girls are increasingly popular because they tick multiple boxes.

  • They sound cool.
  • They carry interesting meanings.
  • It’s deeper than choosing baby names from pop culture.
  • You introduce a different language.
  • They connect you to awesome traditions and cultures.

If you’re thinking about Native American baby names, it’s wise to have an understanding of the relevant culture and naming traditions. The names themselves mean something, but the act of choosing a Native American name is also filled with meaning.

If you’re not indigenous to the Americas, give these names with the respect they deserve, which means developing your understanding of the wider Native American culture. With appreciation of this rich culture, you can choose great names for your baby boy or girl.

Native American History and Culture

It’s impossible to sum up Native American culture in a short blog post. What we can do, however, is give you a little introduction through Native American names, meanings, and naming culture.

Native Americans are the indigenous peoples of Canada and the United States. When Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas, the lands were, of course, already populated. Indigenous people have lived in the Americas for 15,000+ years.

A Native American is actually, technically, any of the aboriginal peoples of the Western Hemisphere. They lived in everything from hamlets to cities, including Teotihuacan, which was home to as many as 200,000 people.

These aboriginal peoples had technology, fire, hunting implements, pottery, and domesticated animals, including dogs, turkeys, llamas, and alpacas. Some hunted animals as well as cultivated crops. Other groups focused solely on agriculture.

In the 1600s, Europeans began to colonize the Americas, wiping out many Native Americans through disease, military conquest, and enslavement.

Today, Native Americans exist in many groups. Some of the most well-known are:

  • Cherokee people
  • Chinookan peoples
  • Crow people
  • Lakota
  • Najavo
  • Nanticoke people
  • Paiute
  • Sioux

We can see the influence of Native American culture in art, music, and food throughout the US. Many rivers, towns, and states have their origin in Native American names. And Native American names for boys and girls are growing in popularity.

Popular Native American Baby Names

Some Native American names are widely known, though you may not have realized they are Native American in origin. A number of actors and actresses and other prominent figures have Native American names, including:

  • Dakota Johnson
  • Winona Ryder
  • Cheyenne Jackson

If you’d like to know more intriguing details about these people, you can search public records on Nuwber. In the meantime, let’s have a closer look at some of the most fascinating names and their Native American origins.

Naming Traditions

american names

Native American naming traditions vary because there are so many tribes and regions in which cultures developed differently.

While American names normally have the father’s name passed on to the children, Native American names usually consist of one name. This single name is meaningful and is given at a specific time (or times if there are multiple names), according to the tribe.

Native American names are given either in private or in public during a ceremony. Often, they are given at significant moments to reflect the person’s milestones, honors, and actions. Chosen by an elder, the names for boys and girls frequently relate to a vision of what the child may become.

As well as often revealing something of the person’s character, the name itself is frequently determined by something in nature. It might refer to animals. And it could be based on something in the parents’ minds when the child was born.

The elder, who may be one of the parents, will typically repeat the name to the baby and explain its meaning.

But remember that naming traditions vary from tribe to tribe. The Sioux, for example, have a relatively complex naming tradition that involves six name classes:

  • Birth order
  • Honor
  • Nicknames
  • Significant deed
  • Secret names
  • Spirit names

Each individual could have several name changes during their lifetime, reflecting their evolving identities.

Native American Gender Neutral Baby Names

Native American culture includes some lovely gender neutral names. If you’re looking for an androgynous, unisex name or you want to decide on a name before you know the gender of your child, check out these gender neutral choices.

Cherokee

This is a tribal name, but also means people of a different speech. You might not have heard this as a person’s name, but you might be familiar with the Jeep Cherokee SUV.

Dakota

Popularised by Dakota Fanning and Dakota Johnson, this name is pretty popular for boys and girls. Its meaning can be interpreted as friend or ally.

Like Cherokee, this name is derived from the name of the tribe. It’s also a language. And it refers to the states of North Dakota and South Dakota.

Elan

This name could be of Apache origin and means friendly! It’s not a common name, so you could be the one to start the trend.

Kai

The Kai origin is Navajo, but it also comes from other regions, including Hawaii and Japan. It means willow tree in Navajo, and the Hawaiian meaning is ocean.

While this name is more typically a girl’s name in Native American cultures, it’s also a common name for boys elsewhere.

Nodin

Nodin is a beautiful name with roots in the Ojibwe language, spoken by the Ojibwe people, who are indigenous to the Great Lakes region of North America.

The name means wind, which in traditional belief systems is seen as a powerful force of nature and a messenger and is associated with transformation, change, and life energy.

Native American Baby Names for Boys

Aside from some of the gender neutral names in our list, such as Dakota, Native American baby boy names are far less common than names for girls, so you have a great opportunity to use a powerful baby name that turns heads. If you’re looking for a rare name rather than popular American baby names, you’re in luck. Here are some examples of baby boy names you could choose.

Ahanu

This name comes from the Algonquian language and means he laughs. It reflects joy and happiness and can be a wonderful choice for a cheerful and lively child.

Chayton

Derived from the Sioux (Lakota) language, Chayton means falcon or hawk. It represents keen vision, speed, and agility, qualities associated with the majestic bird of prey.

Jacy

Jacy is a name of Cherokee origin, meaning moon and creator of plant life. This is a great name for someone you envision being a wide, guiding, and protective force in the world.

Jalen

This name has its origins in a number of tribes and cultures. Thus, it has varying meanings. It can be interpreted as flute or tranquil/peaceful.

Keme

This relatively gentle-sounding name actually means thunder and carries a powerful and dynamic essence. It’s from the Algonquian tradition.

Koi

In Japan, this is a kind of fish, but it’s also a Choctaw name meaning panther!

Koi is additionally the name of a tribe, part of the Southeastern Pomo people who lived in the village of Koi, meaning people of the water.

Mato

This name is of Lakota origin and means bear. Bears are revered in many Native American cultures for their strength, wisdom, and connection to the land.

Nakai

This name originates from the Navajo language and means center. It symbolizes balance, harmony, and the importance of being grounded.

Takoda

Takoda originates from the Sioux/Dakota tribes and is a variation of the popular Dakota, one of the subgroups of the Sioux (alongside Lakota and Nakota). This is a lovely name used primarily for boys.

It’s not quite the same name as Dakota, but it does share the Dakota origin, meaning ally or friend to everyone.

Utah

Stemming from Navajo, Apache, and the Ute people, Utah may mean people of the mountains or simply the people. It could also be related to meat eaters!

Besides, of course, it became the name of a state of America, ensuring that people will know how to spell it, even if it’s unclear what it means.

Native American Baby Girl Names

indigenous names

Here are a few names for girls from this rich culture. While they tend to be more common than boys’ names, they are still unusual and thought-provoking.

Cheyenne

This name, which sounds like a French word, has an Algonquin or Sioux origin. Cheyenne refers to a Qyoming city, the name of the tribe, and … hard to understand.

If you’re hesitating over naming your daughter for being difficult to understand, remember that some of the best people are complicated.

Kaya

This is a name from Nez Perce origin, which is a tribe in the Pacific Northwest, as well as from Africa, and Japan. You may be more familiar with the variation Kay! The Native American name means she who arranges rocks.

Lulu

Lulu may be from the Apache, Creek, or Choctaw tribes, meaning Rabbit. It also has roots in German, Latin, and other cultures.

Malia

The Malia origin is from the Zuni tradition, Hawaiian, and Hebrew. With its roots in the name Maria or Mary, the Hawaiian meaning is calm waters, but be aware that it means bitter in Zuni! The name is also sometimes varied as Lea, among other closer variations.

It became more popular recently due to its connection with the Former First Daughter Malia Obama.

Moana

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know this name has its origin in Hawaiian, Maori, and Polynesian languages. It means deep sea, wide ocean.

Unsurprisingly, the name was most popular after the release of the Disney movie.

Mona

Mona is from the Miwok tribe and Gaelic. It has a very specific meaning: gathering jimsonweed seed. A variation of Mona is … Moana.

Nina

This name has its basis in the Kichwa language (closely related to Quechua) as well as Italian and Spanish. If this makes you think of Nina Simone, you’re not alone.

Meaning mighty or fire. Nina has had enduring popularity over the years.

Nita

This is a fairly popular name that was most popular in the 50s. Meaning bear, it was the given name of TV’s obstetrician and gynecologist Nita Landry.

Yoki

This name comes from the Hopi language and means rain. In many Native American cultures, rain is seen as a source of life, renewal, and fertility, making Yoki a name that celebrates abundance and vitality.

Winona

Made famous by Winona Ryder, this name is of Sioux origin and means first daughter.

Conclusion

Using Native American names is an excellent way to introduce powerful, meaningful names for boys and girls into our society. They are great talking points and can help see that your child is the only person with that name for miles around.

Using these names is even better when you research, investigate, and attempt to understand the culture and traditions from which they came. Hopefully, this post has whet your appetite to learn more about the indigenous people of the Americas and their incredible cultures, as well as giving us the possibility to have some more interesting names!

FAQ

What’s a Native American name?

This is a name, usually given by an elder indigenous to Canada, the US, and its territories. They consist of one word/name and have various meanings that may relate to nature, a vision of the future for the child, or what was on the parents’ minds near the time of birth.

What are some Native American baby names?

Native American baby names include great-sounding names like:

  • Dakota
  • Kai
  • Keme
  • Malia
  • Nina, and
  • Winona

What are Native American baby boy names?

Native American baby boy names are less common than the names for girls. They include Jalen, Koi, and Takoda.

What are Sioux Names?

The Sioux is one of the largest and oldest Native American tribes (or rather a union of tribes), dating back three thousand years. It’s also, therefore, one of the most well known. Many great names have been influenced or have their roots in the Sioux tradition.

What are some famous, historical figures from Native America?

Famous examples of Native American names, aside from modern-day celebrities using Native American names, include:

  • Crazy Horse from the Lakota, literally His Horse is Crazy
  • Geronimo from the Chiricahua Apace Tribe, meaning the one who yawns
  • Pocahontas, from the Pwhatan Tribe, meaning Playful One
  • Sacajawea, from the Shosone, meaning Bird-woman
  • Sitting Bull, from the Lakota Sioux, meaning Slow

As you can see, these names tell us something about the characters of those people, which helps us understand one of the key concepts of Native American naming.