Setting the Record Straight About Native Languages: Namaste
Q: Is "Namaste" really a Native American word?
A: No. It's a Sanskrit word--Indian from India, in other words, not American Indian. A lot of people make that mistake. Since the New Age
movement is syncretic (pulls together spiritual traditions from diverse sources), many New Age spiritualists combine traditional Native American
words or phrases (like Mitakuye Oyasin) with traditional words or phrases from other cultures (like Namaste, shaman, and tarot). Then, since
Americans in general tend to confuse New Age spiritualism with Native American traditional religion, they assume that all the phrases used by the
New Age are Native American ones, when in fact, they have diverse multicultural origins.
Q: What about "shaman"? A: No, "shaman" isn't an American Indian word either. It's a Russian word that comes from the Tungus family of
indigenous Siberian languages. Which makes sense, since shamanism is an indigenous Eurasian religious tradition, not,
as it is commonly misrepresented, Native American. Here's a good website on the
indigenous languages of Russia. You can also read Orrin's article on
Native American spirituality, if you're interested in the difference
between European and Asian traditions like tarot and shamans and actual American Indian religions.