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Sci-Fi heroine's name

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?

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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

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