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Ioway Cultural Institute : Culture : Traditions


There were several different ways of naming originally. One way was to have a name given as an honor from another tribe. The other ways were:

1. Every person had a birth name which was according to the order of their birth and their sex, which corresponded to "Firstborn" "secondborn" etc. or alternatively, "Oldest Son," "Second Daughter" etc. Everybody had these kinds of names, used by their parents mainly.

2. After a certain age (the age varies by who you talk to, but mainly it was an age old enough that the child could stand unassisted), the oldest people of the clan or subclan would decide on what clan name the child would have, of the male or female form according to the sex of the child. Each clan had its own list or "store" of names, all derived from an aspect of the sacred legend of origin of the clan. When a person died, the name went back into circulation, and could be reassigned to a new baby of that clan. In this way, when the clan was together, you could say the origin story "came alive" and was embodied within that clan's members.

3. Achievements, talents, or odd features could give a person a type of nickname by which he was known to outsiders. Generally these were the names by which we know many of the Ioways of oldtimes, since the sacred clan names were not bandied about. Other cultures have this feature as well, in which one's "true name" is known only to the inside group. Among the Ioways, the most common instance of this was the war achievement name, like "The Man Who Killed Three Sioux". This name could also be changed if the person wished and if they achieved something even more notable. In addition this type of name could be passed on to another, such as a son.

4. The most common way these days (since the 1930s-1940s or so) seems to be that people are named after their ancestors (grandparents, etc.) and they are then given the remembered "Indian name" (which could have been any of the previous three types above) of that ancestor. These names are often believed by that family to be for the exclusive use of that family, and by tribal agreement and convention, this is the usual way it works today.

Lance Foster

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