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