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Q: My father remembered some indian words from growing
up and named my
children indian nicknames to celebrate their
heritage but he is in his
80's and can't remember which language these are
from but said he is
pretty sure of there meanings. He learned from his
mother years ago but
never traced our ancestry and due to problems with
American' back then never wanted to. He and my
mother had to elope
because of his Indian heritage.
Salali lootah - red squirrel - I'm not sure what
language it is in.
Chimali Kante - blue bird sings - again I'm not sure
what language this is in.
If you could help I'd appreciate it. Thank you.
A: Are you sure your father remembered those
phrases from his childhood (as opposed to looking them
up later in life)? Because the words come from totally
different languages. Saloli means "squirrel" in
Cherokee, and Luta means "red" in Lakota Sioux.
They're unrelated languages, from tribes separated by
thousands of miles... in Cherokee, the adjective
should come first in a phrase, and in Lakota, it
should come last.
It seems unusual for someone to remember one phrase
with words from two different languages in it... if it
were me I'd be guessing that he heard the words
separately and put them together in his mind during
the pan-Indian movement of the 70's, when many people
were embracing the languages of multiple tribes, or possibly
that he looked them up in a book later on.
It's also possible that he had one Lakota parent and
one Cherokee parent, I suppose, and remembered the
words separately, then put them together because he
thought they were pretty. However, "Chimali," which is said to be a name of
Native American origin meaning bluebird, is neither a
Lakota nor a Cherokee word. We have no idea what tribe
that one came from, if it truly has Native American
origins, but it's definitely not either of those two
languages. "Kante" is something I've never heard of
before; it also is neither Lakota nor Cherokee, and is
most likely a word borrowed into a Southwest Indian language
from the Spanish "canta" (which does mean "sings.") These two words from
unfamiliar languages make it seem all the more likely
to me that your father learned them during the
pan-Indian period, at intertribal events, or from books.
What part of the country is your father from? If what
you're curious about is tracing his tribal origins,
you could probably find that out with a little bit of
genealogical research. I could at least narrow it down
for you if you told me his birthplace or where his
Native Languages of the Americas
Native American children's names
Lakota Sioux language
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Native American bird symbolism
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