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Native Languages of the Americas: Contacts and FAQ

Hello, and welcome to Native Languages of the Americas! We are a small non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the indigenous languages of the Western Hemisphere. On our website, we are working to provide a complete library of the available online materials about the more than 800 Amerindian languages and the people that speak them. Updates are regular, so check back with us now and then!



The director and cofounder of Native Languages of the Americas is Laura Redish. She is a poet and linguist from Minnesota. She is also the one who does all the site maintenance and programming, so if there's something you want changed on the site, it will happen quickest if you contact her.

The original owner of this site is Orrin Lewis. He is a Cherokee man who has done work in linguistic preservation with many Indian languages of Oklahoma. Due to health reasons Orrin's involvement with the project has been scaled back, but you can still write to him. Orrin's original homepage is now here.

We are happy to talk to you about our organization, this website, and American Indian language preservation. However, please look at this FAQ list first, to save yourself (and us!) some time and energy.

Native Languages of the Americas: Frequently Asked Questions

1. How can I help preserve Indian languages?
2. How are donations to your organization used?
3. Do I need to donate to you to get help with an Indian language question?
4. Do you make grants to Indian language preservation projects?
5. Do you have free language learning materials you can send me?
6. Do you sell Indian language materials?
7. I am a teacher. May I use information from your website in my classroom?
8. I am a student. Will you help me write a report on Native Americans?
9. May I reprint information from your website on my own website or blog?
10. I want to cite your website in my bibliography. What is your copyright information?
11. Do you have a privacy policy?
12. I am a web designer, would you like to hire me to spruce your site up with some graphics, animation, and music?
13. Are there any other employment opportunities with your organization?
14. My great-great-grandmother was half Native American. Her name was Mary. Can you help me find her?
15. How do you say [something] in [some Indian language]? Will you translate something for me?
16. Will you help me find a Native American name for my dog?
17. Will you help me find a Native American name for my child?
18. Will you give me a spirit name?
19. Will you help me find a Native American name for my role-playing character or fictional character in a story?
20. Can you tell me where I can find a good book about Native Americans?
21. Can you tell me where I can find a dreamcatcher or other art that was actually made by an American Indian?
22. I am Wiccan. Will you tell me all about Native American goddesses?
23. I want to convert to a Native American religion. Will you help me?
24. I had a strange dream. Can you tell me what it means?
25. I want to get a tattoo, will you send me pictures of some authentic Native American tattoo designs?
26. Why don't you have any sites about how Indian languages are related to Egyptian or Norwegian/Indians are a lost tribe of Israel/Indians immigrated to the Americas only 1000 years ago/space aliens built Mayan monuments?
27. You have a link to a site that says some stuff about Pocahontas/Anna Mae Aquash/the Bering Strait which I do not agree with! Please delete it!
28. You have a link to my ex-boyfriend's "Indian" page but he isn't really Indian at all, he's a big phony! You should delete it.
29. Why don't you have a link to my site?
30. Hi, Orrin! I see that you are Cherokee! Where do you live? Tell me about your people!
31. Hi, Laura! What tribe are you from?
32. Is Orrin a medicine man?
33. Where did Laura's gaming stuff go?
34. Can I IM you guys?
35. Is your site endorsed by the Indian tribes featured in it?
36. What is your opinion about gambling, Makah whaling, the Washington Redskins, the Bering Strait, the Y-Indian-Princesses, blood quantums, etcetera, etcetera?

Native Languages

Q: How can I help preserve Indian languages?
A: If you are Indian, first of all, learn your people's language--even as a second language. Second of all, teach it to your kids. (Or your grandkids, if, like Orrin, you already missed your chance at your kids.) Here is Laura's excellent essay about restoring Indian languages. If you would like to become involved with our organization, please visit the page about our non-profit work to learn how you can volunteer some of your time or make a donation to us on behalf of endangered Indian languages. You can also link to our site from your website or blog, to help spread the word!

Q: How are donations to your organization used?
A: So far we have used donations to purchase dictionaries and other American Indian language materials, computer equipment, and office supplies; to pay technicians to help maintain our website; to make small grants to native speakers working on language preservation projects; and to purchase language learning and support materials for tribal members living off-reservation. Future donations may also be used for travel expenses, audio recording equipment, and the direct support of tribal language programs and other educational endeavors involving native languages. We are a 501-c-3 nonprofit educational organization and contributions are tax-exempt in the United States.

Q: Do I need to donate to you to get help with an Indian language question?
A: Of course not! If the answer to your question isn't on our FAQ or our public language site, send us email or visit our free Indian language queries page. There are some kinds of questions we can't be much help with, though, so please read the rest of this FAQ page first.

Q: Do you make grants to Indian language preservation projects?
A: Yes. We can give financial support to any tribal or tribally sponsored language learning program, to non-tribal educational projects that we feel promote native language use, and to individual tribal members working to record or present language materials. Unfortunately, we do not have the funds available to support large projects at this point in time. We are able to make small grants (particularly those that will cost $1000 or less), and we are also able to provide free web hosting, technological assistance, and volunteer-hours to any Indian language preservation effort. Please check our grant information page and send us an application if you think we might be able to help you.

If you have a more expensive native language teaching or preservation project which you are seeking funding for, please feel free to send us email about it. Even though we cannot fund large-scale projects ourselves at this time, we do have contacts we may be able to pass along to you. As a nonprofit group, we are also able to serve as fiscal sponsors for qualified organizations who are trying to apply for grants. Be sure to include the amount of funding you are seeking and the exact nature of the project.

Q: Do you have free language learning materials you can send me?
A: All our own language materials are available online (go back to our homepage to find it.) If you are a tribal member living off-reservation, we can purchase language learning materials for you and your family if they are available in your people's language. Inquire by email (please include your exact tribal affiliation.) We cannot offer that free service to non-tribal members. However, we do have language learning worksheets, picture dictionaries, numbers, pronunciation guides and other materials available online which you are welcome to print out and use.

Q: Do you sell Indian language materials?
A: No, we don't. Two good sources for Native American language learning books and tapes are Various Indian Peoples Publishing and Buffalo Trails.

Q: I am a teacher. May I use information from your website in my classroom?
A: Yes. All of the materials on our website may be freely used for noncommercial educational purposes.

Q: I am a student. Will you help me write a report on Native Americans?
A: Yes, you can use our website to help with your school report. Go to our Native Americans index (or our new Native American Kids index if you are a younger student) and explore the links there to learn more about the language and culture of an Indian tribe. You can use any of the information there for your report.

If you have a specific question that you cannot find an answer to, it's OK to email us and ask-- but please do not just send us the essay question you were assigned! We can not do people's homework for them.

Q: May I reprint information from your website on my own website or blog?
A: Yes, as long as you link back to our website from the page where you have used our information.

Q: I want to cite your website in my bibliography. What is your copyright information?
A: You will need to ask your teacher for the bibliography format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis, and the title of our website is Native Languages of the Americas. The site was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2009.

Q: Do you have a privacy policy?
A: Yes, you can read it at this link.

Q: I am a web designer, would you like to hire me to spruce your site up with some graphics, animation, and music?
A: No, thank you. We realize our 'look' is rather bare-bones, but that is by design--this website is intended to be one that will not crash the kind of computers they have at Indian grade schools, and that means no flash videos or rippling pools or background music. Sorry.

Q: Are there any other employment opportunities with your organization?
A: Native Languages of the Americas has no paid employees (all of our members are volunteers). If you would like to volunteer with us, please see our How You Can Help page for volunteer opportunities. We do sometimes have freelance work available doing data entry or editing our web pages. We pay $10 an hour for that and it's only a few hours a week. Drop us an email if you're interested. Also, if you are fluent in an Indian language and are seeking work as a translator or interpreter, we'd be happy to take your name and refer the people who ask us about paid translators to you.

Q: My great-great-grandmother was half Native American. Her name was Mary. Can you help me find her?
A: No. We are not a genealogical organization and cannot research your family tree for you. However, Orrin has written a new page on Native American genealogy which may help provide you with a starting point in your search for your ancestors. Good luck!

Q:How do you say [something] in [some language or other]? Will you translate something for me?
A: Sorry, but free translations are not a service we have time to provide to the public. If you're not finding the native language materials you need on the Internet you can visit our native language translation fundraiser and we can do a translation for you in exchange for a small donation to our organization or a link to our website. Otherwise you are welcome to use the many free online resources we have collected on our site. Select the language you are looking for from our index of Indian tribes and browse through the links there--there are online dictionaries and phrasebooks, homepages of fluent speakers who might translate something for you, mailing lists and bulletin boards about the language where you could post a request, and in some cases even professional translators. If there isn't any link that is useful, you might also try going to the official homepage of a tribe or nation that speaks that language and sending them email asking to be referred to a native speaker you could pay to translate it for you. Many tribes will oblige you.

Q: Will you help me find a Native American name for my dog?
A: Go to one of our language pages, scroll down to the "Dictionaries and Glossaries" section, open one of the dictionaries, and look up the word "dog" (or cat, or horse, or snake, depending on the species of your pet). If you don't like it or can't pronounce it, try another language. Repeat as necessary. Be aware, housecats are not native to the Americas, so most Indian words for them are borrowed from European languages. If you have a cat, maybe you should try a Middle Eastern language instead. If you would like a more personalized name for your pet, Orrin has started providing some animal name suggestions as part of a fundraiser for our organization--visit our new Native American Names page.

Q: Will you help me find a Native American name for my child?
A: That depends on what you mean by a "Native American name." If you want a medicine name for your child, you will have to arrange a naming ceremony with an elder from your family's tribe. No one can do this for you over the Internet, and anybody who claims they can is taking advantage of you. If you want to give your child a name that honors your Native American ancestors, you can always choose a native variant of a Biblical name (such as Kateri, an Iroquois version of Catherine) or adapt a word from a native language into a name that you think sounds nice. See our page on Native American Baby Names for more information.

Q: Will you give me a spirit name?
A: No. It is against Orrin's religion to name a human being he has not met. Naming traditions are different from tribe to tribe, but you can't just get a name from a stranger in any of them that we know of. If you want a native name for yourself I recommend talking to an older relative or an elder in your family's tribe to arrange a naming ceremony. The giving and receiving of medicine names is a sacred religious tradition of great spiritual significance and really cannot be done over the Internet any more than a baptism could.

Q: Will you help me find a Native American name for my role-playing character or fictional character in a story?
A: Sure. Go to the language page corresponding to the tribe your character belongs to, scroll down to the "Dictionaries and Glossaries" section, open one of the dictionaries, and look up the word "flower" (if the character is female) or "hawk" (if the character is male). That ought to suffice for your purposes. If you don't like it or can't pronounce it, look up some other basic animal words till you get one you like. You should not take a real Indian's name for a fictional character without permission, as many native traditions consider this disrespectful. But general words like "flower" or "hawk" are fair game. If you would like a more personalized name for your fictional character, Orrin has started providing some fictional name suggestions as part of a fundraiser for our organization--visit our new Native American Names page.

Q: Can you tell me where I can find a good book about Native Americans?
A: We have put up a page of Native American Books because of being asked this question so frequently. It's still under construction, but you can check out the current crop of good book links (there are a few audio tapes and movies in there, too).

Q: Can you tell me where I can find a dreamcatcher or other art that was actually made by an American Indian?
A: There sure is a lot of fake "Native American" art out there, isn't there? Well, we have put up a new page of American Indian Art linking to some genuine Indian artists for you to visit. It's by no means exhaustive, and we welcome additions to this page. These are just some of our favorite sites which one of us happened to know about. The art is very beautiful and was all made by American Indian or Inuit people, not by scammers.

Q: I am Wiccan. Will you tell me all about Native American goddesses?
We do not know anything about "Native American goddesses." There have never been any Cherokee goddesses, so Orrin does not have any personal knowledge about this subject whatsoever. Laura says there were goddesses worshipped in Central America but they were completely dominated by their husbands and sons so you might not want to read about them. In any event, we do not have the same spiritual beliefs you do, will not bless you or give you a spiritual name or assign you a spirit guide or cast a spell on your behalf, and do not have any special goddess information for you.

Q: I want to convert to a Native American religion. Will you help me?
No. Native Languages of the Americas is not a religious organization. Laura is not Indian, so she could not help you if she wanted to; and Orrin does not want to. Please understand that Indian spirituality is not evangelistic like Christianity, it is private and entirely cultural. You cannot convert unless you become part of the cultural group, and if you had done that, you wouldn't be looking for help from a total stranger over the Internet, would you? I think you will find that most Indians are happy to tell you about our cultures and even let you participate in powwows and other events, but you can't 'convert' to 'Native American' any more than you can convert to being black, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to make some money off of you. See Orrin's page for a more complete discussion of American Indian religion and how not to learn about it.

Q: I had a strange dream. Can you tell me what it means?
Sorry, we don't do dream interpretations. If you're looking for someone to help you analyze your dreams, here is the URL of a lady who does telephone consultations about dreams and their meanings: Kathleen Jenks, Dream Interpretation Coach. Good luck.

Q: I want to get a tattoo, will you send me pictures of some authentic Native American tattoo designs?
A: We don't have any tattoo pictures, but you can read Orrin's article on American Indian tattoos if you like--he has some important advice for tattoo-seekers, and we have links to a few sources that may be valuable for you.

Q: Why don't you have any sites about how Indian languages are related to Egyptian or Norwegian/Indians are a lost tribe of Israel/Indians immigrated to the Americas only 1000 years ago/space aliens built Mayan monuments?
A: Because those things are false. Here is our Internet Myths page explaining and debunking these and other rumors and misbeliefs about Indian languages and native peoples.

Q: You have a link to a site that says some stuff about Pocahontas/Anna Mae Aquash/the Bering Strait which I do not agree with! Please delete it!
A: Some things are legitimate controversies of history. We don't know exactly what, if anything, Pocahontas did to save John Smith; we don't know who killed Anna Mae Aquash; and we don't know (though we may have deeply held religious beliefs about it) what our ancestors were doing 30,000 years ago. In these cases, we have tried to include links to sites which present both sides of the story. We will not delete the site you disagree with, but if you send us a link to a site presenting another view, we may include it as well. We do not include links to sites which are factually incorrect (see Internet Myths) or offensive, and we do not link to the sites of people who are fraudulent or exploit American Indian religious traditions. If you think any of these is the case, then please contact us. Otherwise, we will not delete a site which contains legitimate and substantially correct information about a Native American language or people.

Q: You have a link to my ex-boyfriend's "Indian" page but he isn't really Indian at all, he's a big phony! You should delete it.
A: We can't be the wannabe police. Neither of us even really feels we have the right to be, and we definitely do not have time. Readers will have to judge for themselves the value and integrity of websites they read. We will de-link any sites which are factually incorrect, exploitative (including appropriating American Indian religions), fraudulent (including misrepresenting non-native arts and crafts as Indian-made), or offensive. If any of these are the case, send us email explaining the situation and we will try to remedy it. But if it's a matter of your ex-boyfriend saying he's half-Apache and you saying he's lying, that is not an argument we are going to get involved in.

Q: Why don't you have a link to my site???
A: We do not include links to sites which are factually incorrect, offensive, or fraudulent (including passing off "Indian-inspired" arts and crafts as Indian-made, which is illegal.) We do not include links to sites which crash Orrin's 486 or cannot be viewed without flash or other add-ons. We do not necessarily include sites if they do not have content about an Amerindian language, and we definitely do not include sites if they do not have content about an indigenous people of the Americas. If there's a very small amount of Indian content and a whole lot of other stuff, we won't necessarily include it. Our site is categorized by languages, so if you have a site about Indians in general, no matter how good it is, we cannot include it at this point in time.

Usually, though, if your site is about an Indian language--probably if it is about an Indian tribe at all--we just don't have your URL. Please email it to us, and we'll add it.

Q: Hi, Orrin! I see that you are Cherokee! Where do you live? Tell me about your people!
A: Here is my homepage. It tells a little about me. Here is our webpage for the Cherokee language and culture. There are more than 200 links there that will help you learn about my people. Here is the link to my tribe, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

Q: Hi, Laura! What tribe are you from?
A: I'm not. I'm not native at all. I don't have any information about Indian peoples except what I've learned from this project--and I've put all of that on the webpages.

Q: Is Orrin a medicine man?
A: No. Not every old Indian is a medicine person, any more than every old Italian is a priest. I do not have any religious authority as a Cherokee or as a Christian. I'm just an ordinary person. I believe in Cherokee traditions, I believe in Christ, and I believe the two are not incompatible. I also believe Andrew Jackson is in Hell.

Q: Where did Laura's gaming stuff go?
A: When this project became too large for Laura to host it on her personal site anymore, we ended up applying the new domain name to her original site, and she moved her personal files elsewhere. You can find the links to their new locations here.

Q: Can I IM you guys?
A: Laura has an AIM account as tjekanefir. You're welcome to IM me there, but I can't promise to respond (I have small children I'm sometimes chasing after). Orrin does not have an AIM account (at least not the instant-messenger kind! :-D )

Q: Is your site endorsed by the Indian tribes featured in it?
A: No. This is not an official publication of any Indian tribe or nation, and we are solely responsible for its content. We do try to contact any tribal webmasters that we can find to ask them if they have any corrections or additions to make, and we are grateful to many of them who have taken the time to give us guidance. Our policy is to honor all requests from any official representative of an Indian tribe or nation in any way possible.

Q: What is your opinion about gambling, Makah whaling, the Washington Redskins, the Bering Strait, the Y-Indian-Princesses, blood quantums, etcetera, etcetera?
A: Native Languages of the Americas does not take any position on any non-linguistic Indian issue. Our linguistic opinion is that Indian languages have been forcibly driven to the brink of extinction by aggressive assimilation, not just drifted into disuse, and that by maintaining the pride, prestige, and practicality of bilingualism, many of them can still be saved. Just look at Navajo.

As for other Indian issues, Orrin has written articles on some of them, if you would like to read them: Native Americans and the Bering Strait theory, blood quantum, mixed-bloods, and Indian wannabees, the YMCA and the Y-Indian Guides/Princesses, Native American religion and spirituality, increasing Native Americans' Internet visibility, and myth of the Cherokee princess. However, we want to make clear that those are his personal opinions and not necessarily those of the Cherokee Nation, not necessarily those of the websites we link to, not necessarily Laura's, not necessarily his own family's, and the opinions espoused by some of the websites we link to here aren't necessarily his. Native Languages of the Americas is maintaining neutrality on all these things. Our goal is to preserve and promote Indian languages, and only that.

Thank you for coming here. We hope you enjoy the site!

Laura Redish, Director
Orrin Lewis, Tribal Coordinator



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