on naming a child // why the native american way makes more sense

Slon-he

Imagine the fact: You could change your name.

I know people that are very unhappy with their given names, so wouldn’t that be awesome for them changing their name from the one of this handsome movie star, greek goddess or for the history of mankind important politician into a name that really describes their very own and unique personality?

Well, I know, you could visit the authorities and change it from Peter to Paul (no fancy names allowed over here in Germany). Or you could go unofficial by using your nickname – if you have one you like. Or if you’re an artist, you could go with your artist’s name. (At least the last two options may describe you or a part of your character or doing, but I doubt your family will feel comfortable calling you e. g. “The Terminator”.) ;-)

So for me it seems absolutely naturally, logic, and also very simple naming your kid after his or her behavior – like the Native Americans do and what this children’s book “Sie nannten ihn Slon-he. Die Geschichte des Sitting Bull” (“A Boy called Slow. The True Story of Sitting Bull“) by Joseph Bruchac and Rocco Baviera is all about. It tells the story how the little Lakota boy who for some reasons first was called “Slon-he” (“Slow”) literally earned his world-famous name “Tatan’ka Iyota’ke” (“Sitting Bull“) after a very brave act when he was a teenager back in the 1840s.

So American Indian names are given to the children by their parents after watching them for a period of time. According to Developmental Psychology, it is proved, that developing the skills of walking, eating real food, using a toilet and talking take plus/minus two years. With these skills, a child makes his or her first steps into independence. Until then a child also talks about him-/herself by using his given name, never using the word I. This also will start sometime around the two-year-timestamp, following by identifying him-/herself as a real existing person in a mirror intrinsically. So following this natural evolution of taking care of your kid by yourself this whole two years and watching him or her developing certain skills and habits wouldn’t only be more supporting for your child, it even would give you as a parent this very simple opportunity of giving a name the child can identify with instead of picking a name for him or her maybe through reading books or name charts, following by discussions of what family members prefer and what sounds good or what authorities will approve.

As for myself, my grandmother raised me the first three years, ’cause – similar to today – nurseries were rare in the late 1970s GDR. I actually can’t remember her calling me ever by my real name, she always used to call me “Herzeli” (“Little Heart”). Also, my mother rarely called me Corina (or only in certain situations, you know). She came up with “Häslein” (“Little Rabbit”), most probably because the one and only thing I was not picky about were carrots when I was a little kid. Later on, even friends and co-workers and some of my man’s family members surprisingly call(ed) me “Corinchen” or “Kleene” (“Little Corina” or “Little one”), without knowing about this or my whole story of names, but I guess because with 1,58 m (5,18 ft) I am obviously not the tallest person in the world. And actually, I am totally fine with that, even if someone would say that sounds like names without any respect. So even though Corina is well not a name I am completely unhappy with, it is for sure a difficult name, ’cause most people end up pronouncing it wrong: Corinna. And that sounds not as nice as Corina (with the emphasis on the I) or “Little” (anything), you know?! ;-)

A quite similar logic of name-giving comes from people speaking sign language. After knowing each other for some time, I saw my deaf friend talking about me not using the single sign language letters anymore. Instead of that he pointed his finger at the middle of his lower lip line, what absolutely made sense, ’cause at that time I was the only person in our community that had a lip piercing there.

So I guess I made my point already. Nothing more to say about it here. Except… I am really curious about your names. Would you like to change it? And what would be a name that describes you best? Please feel free to leave a comment, I am looking forward reading it! :-)


PS: Since Easter is around the corner, this book makes a nice present for kids. I used to read it to kids at age 5 to 6, when I used to work in a preschool class. The kids enjoyed the story and loved the beautiful pictures. After reading it to them, they even came up with names they would call each other. So funny.

PPS: This post is dedicated to the Lakota people since tomorrow is the 42nd anniversary of the Wounded Knee Incident. As I wrote before, the Lakota people are living a hard life that’s actually not very different from people living in the Third World, even though they live in the middle of the U.S., one of the world’s richest countries. So if you like to help them, please share this post and spread the word! Thank you!

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3 thoughts on “on naming a child // why the native american way makes more sense

  1. I have changed the name I go by–and use three different names now. Jacob Russell for my writing (and for many years, what I was called by, Willard for my visual art (also my legal first name), and now, Goby–by everyday name. I’ve long thought there should should be sets of names for the different stages of life: childhood, adolescence (sexual awakening) & early youth, maturity, and finally–and this would be an honorific, not only for old age, but having attained a full life–a wisdom name.

    1. Jacob, thank you for your great comment! The idea of various names for different periods in life is also pretty cool, I think. So thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend! :-)

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