Q: I am a sci-fi romance writer. I wish to
treat my Indian characters with respect & dignity.
My heroine crashes on a planet filled with different
tribes living together. I have many questions but I
will start with one common theme. How would my adult
female character be given a new name? Are naming
ceremonies different with each tribe? Is the hero
allowed to name her or does an elder need to
approve of this name?
A: Hello, thanks for writing. Unfortunately the question
you are asking is not one that can be answered in a
generic way. Each tribe has its own naming traditions.
In many cases an adult woman would never be given a
new name at all; she would be called by her own name,
or by a slightly adapted version of it that might be
easier for them to pronounce. In other cases she might be
adopted by an older person in the tribe, and would then
be given a tribal name by her adopted parent. In some cases,
she might be given a special name by the community or
by an elder when she did something culturally deserving
of a new name (perhaps years later). We don't know of
any tribe in which a woman's boyfriend would choose a
new name for her, although of course he might give
her a nickname which he himself would call her.
Since you are writing about fictional tribes on an
alien planet, not actual Native American tribes, I
would imagine you can invent whatever naming tradition
suits your story, even while leaning on real Native
American culture as an inspiration. There are so many
different tribes and naming rituals are quite
different in each.
Hope that helps to answer your question!
Native Languages of the Americas