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
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
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, or you could buy some books through our Amazon.com link
(at the bottom of this page); they reward us with gift certificates to use on the Native
Languages of the Americas library.
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
picture dictionaries, numbers,
pronunciation guides and other materials available online which you are welcome to print out
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.
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). If you buy something from Amazon while browsing
a link from our site we will get a gift certificate to use for the Native Languages of the Americas library, 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.
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
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.