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remarkablyoblivious t1_iu5d2di wrote

I read in one of james lowens books that the names we use for most tribes are not the ones used by that tribe. It is usually a name they were called by a different tribe and it was rarely complimentary.


AgentElman t1_iu5dutp wrote

Right. Explorers would meet a tribe and ask who lived nearby. That tribe would then name the neighboring tribes. But they used their name for them. And explorers would use the name they first heard for a tribe.


ChuckChuckelson t1_iu5ecaq wrote

Kinda like what assholes do when they hear a nasty nickname for someone.


LOAARR t1_iu6mlz2 wrote

I wonder how often they understood the meaning of what they were being told or how long it took them to get the real name.


Gothsalts t1_iu6ol4f wrote

Sometimes they don't. The conquistadors asked a Mayan what the land was called heard "Yucatan" ('I don't understand') and named the peninsula after it.


LOAARR t1_iu7aohu wrote

I was moreso proposing the idea of that shitty razor reddit likes to reference all the time. Something like, "never attribute to malice that which can easily be attributed to incompetence."


Paynomind t1_iu7sz84 wrote



LOAARR t1_iu80jsi wrote

Occam's is about simple explanations, which is very similar to the one I'm referencing.

I think it's Hanlon's.


Some_Inspector3638 t1_iu8xdb5 wrote

My family's name was changed that way. The census guy came around and my great-great-etc. wasn't home. "Who lives there?", "Oh, Lame Nicolas lives there". And from then on, that was our name. Kootzinicole.

Luckily my great grandfather stole another family's name when he snuck into the U.S.


gwaydms t1_iu765ka wrote

Neighbors are sometimes allies, and sometimes enemies. A lot of uncomplimentary names for tribes were passed down in this way.


myindependentopinion t1_iu5rksr wrote

I'm an enrolled member of the Menominee Tribe of WI and we were named by the Ojibwe/Chippewa but it was complimentary. They were & are our friends.

The Chippewa referred to us as "the wild rice people" from their word "manoomin" (meaning good grain or berry) because they thought that wherever my tribe traveled in the old days that wild rice would flourish at our feet which was a good thing.

Wild rice isn't true rice. So when the French re-translated our tribe's name it became "folles avoines" or "crazy oats" and yikes...that's what we were called in the 1701 treaty of the Great Peace of Montreal but none of my ancestors spoke/read French at the time to know the meaning.

Our name for ourselves in our own language is Mamaceqtaw. But because all our US Govt. treaties refer to us as Menominee/Menomini, we are reluctant to change our name so as not to invalidate our treaty rights.


Falsus t1_iu72ouj wrote

At least you lucked out in the name lottery. Imagine if your tribe had been named by your mortal enemies and rivals lmao.

The modern version would probably be like being named by a CoD kid.


Jeff_From_IT t1_iu6x2tn wrote

As they say, the real TIL is in the comments. But in this case it's all new info, so bonus knowledge?


traficantedemel t1_iu6c7m7 wrote


does it mean anything? is it a 'translation' of manoomin?


Seraphim9120 t1_iu8opd1 wrote

Manoomin/menominee: name given to them by their allies; people of the wild rice in the allies' language

Mamaceqtaw: their own name for their own tribe. Simply means "people" or "tribe" in their own language, if my google is correct.


Gasur t1_iu87nrw wrote

If you were translating folles avoine literally, it would be fool's oats rather than crazy oats.

English uses the same concept sometimes. Pyrite is also known as fool's gold for example.

Still not what they should have been calling your tribe of course.


asrenos t1_iu9g1bt wrote

Not really, it's an archaic use of fol (fou in modern French) in it's feminine form which is used in that context to designate plants that grow abundantly and seemingly randomly. You can search for "Herbe folle" if you want more info on that.


asrenos t1_iu9gzy7 wrote

It does not translate well from French, it's an archaic use of fol (fou in modern French) in it's feminine form which is used in that context to designate plants that grow abundantly and seemingly randomly. You can search for "Herbe folle" if you want more info on that.


neoplastic_pleonasm t1_iu5le0p wrote

Exonyms VS endonyms. In OPs case they're called hostile exonyms. There are a lot of historical peoples we only know by exonyms. There are also many we know only by their native word for "people."


TamanduaShuffle t1_iu5le3r wrote

Ojibwe means puckered moccasin in Mohawk. It was because the way we sewed our shoes to make them waterproof


tanfj t1_iu5x8pz wrote

Yeah. Most Native names used in English translate as "Those Assholes over there".


marmorset OP t1_iu59csg wrote

An alternative explanation is that Nadowessiwag means "to speak a foreign language. However, the Ojibwe introduced the Iroquis to the French as "Nadowe," or "big snake," which makes the snake translation more likely.


Skithiryx t1_iu635pq wrote

Iroquois is also an exonym by the way, they call themselves Haudenosaunee.


rforall t1_iu6ctyp wrote

The adirondacks is a native word and from what I’ve read is it means “bark eater”. Other tribes, I think the haudenosaunee or the Algonquian, called the Adirondack tribe this name to insinuate what bad hunters they were. The shade!


Lotharofthepotatoppl t1_iu797im wrote

Something similar happened regarding the Ho-Chunk. The term Winnebago was used by another tribe and as I recall implies they live in a smelly swamp.


Jebediah_Johnson t1_iu7h0fc wrote

The water coming from lake Winnebago does smell like a swamp. The tap water in Fond du Lac was vile.


spicyfishtacos t1_iu7vkp8 wrote

Fond du Lac means "bottom of the lake" in French. Not super appealing either.


marmorset OP t1_iu7q4li wrote

Yes, Winnebago translates as "person of dirty water."


djb25 t1_iu8uiqr wrote

Brand name on point, anyway.


ZelnormWow t1_iu94ut5 wrote

Can confirm. Source: Parents owned a Winnebago, lived in it for a year.


dasunt t1_iudlkcq wrote

Reminds me of a trip I took recently that we through a place named Grand Marais.

The name translates to "big swamp".

Sounds much better in French!


1ftIntheGrave t1_iu7u1x1 wrote

The inner bark of white pines is edible and nutritious, might not be shade but a description.


turnophrasetk421 t1_iu5d69i wrote

Never say the Ojibwe indians did not have a sense of humor.


catlaxative t1_iu5mdxi wrote

Who lives up there? Oh that’s Larry Sheepfucker.


HereTakeThisBooger t1_iu5u6jw wrote

A similar thing happened in the southwest U.S. Anthropologists were studying the people who lived in the Four Corners region between about 700-1200 CE before abruptly disappearing. In the 1930s, recognizing that then-current Navajo people might have some cultural connection to the lost civilization, scientists asked Navajo historians about them. The Navajo referred to them as Anasazi, and for close to 100 years, scientific documents and museum displays readily referred to the lost civilization as the Anasazi.

The only problem was that in the Navajo language, "Anasazi" means "ancient enemies." In other words, the Navajo viewed the lost civilization as interlopers and enemies of their Navajo ancestors. It took about 75 years before anybody noticed, but once they did, it was decided that calling this lost civilization "enemies" probably wasn't the best idea. So "Anasazi" is now a deprecated term, and the lost civilization is officially known as the "Ancestral Puebloans."


liltingly t1_iu72trd wrote

Whoa! My elementary school curriculum definitely referenced the Anasazi. I was always confused why subsequently all references used “Pueblo” as the name.


acm2033 t1_iu77ob7 wrote

Whoops, I will update my cerebral index


Lotharofthepotatoppl t1_iu79t30 wrote

If you ask the Navajo it doesn’t mean enemy, but I’m in no way an expert

The Navajo also call themselves Dine, because of course they were “named” by another tribe just like all the others lol


atomfullerene t1_iu976fs wrote

>the lost civilization as interlopers

Although it was actually the Pueblo who had been there longer, and the Navajo who were part of a migration that came down from the north.


Desebunsrmine t1_iu7d2gt wrote

What I just realized is Anasazi iny area is pronounced ana na see, which sounds much like and a Nazi. 🤔 Just a realization


Hrtzy t1_iu5pmro wrote

Apparently a large number of immigrants from Finland ended up mingling with the Ojibwe later. The Ojibwe word for Finns reportedly translates to "People who sound like frogs".


curtmandu t1_iu5gwhs wrote

Not the first time I’ve heard of natives doing this to white people lol…when a little town near where I grew up applied to the post office to use “Sweetwater” they were informed the name was already in use, natives in the area said “Mobeetie” was their word for sweet water, so that’s what it’s been named ever since, but it was later revealed the name actually meant “Buffalo shit” lol.


gwaydms t1_iu76w9f wrote

>“Buffalo shit”

That's pretty funny.


EarhornJones t1_iu5skl8 wrote

The origin of the name of the city of Des Moines is lost to history. One possibly apocryphal story is that French traders often named landmarks after the people living near them. When trading with one tribe, the French asked the name of another tribe living by a nearby river.

The first tribe, wanting to discourage the French from taking their trade goods to another tribe, called them something like "those shitfaces over there".

The French, not realizing the meaning, recorded the name of the tribe, and thus the river, and then the city as "Des Moines".


marmorset OP t1_iu6cmqo wrote

I'm pretty sure it means A Whale's Vagina.


Pippin1505 t1_iu68vqz wrote

But I don’t see the link ?

"des moines" is just French for "of the monks" It could be a corruption of "demons" but it’s an unlikely name for a city


EarhornJones t1_iu69p37 wrote

"The monks" is a false etymology. The French trappers didn't name it after monks. They named it after a native word, that was later shortened/corrupted to "Des Moines".

From Wikipedia: William Bright writes that Moines was an abbreviation used by the French for Moingouena or Moingona, an Algonquian subgroup of the Illinois people. The Native American term was /mooyiinkweena/, a derogatory name applied to the Moingouena by the Peoria people, a closely related subgroup. The meaning of the native word, according to an early French writer, is visage plein d'ordure, or in plain English, "shit-face", from mooy-, "shit", -iinkwee, "face", and -na, "indefinite actor".[7]


Hypersky75 t1_iu6axd9 wrote

As a french speaker I had no idea, always thought of the literal sense in French, "of the monks" or just "some monks".

Shit faces. I like it. Faces de merde. 😅


Phu_Bai_PX t1_iu73yt3 wrote

Looks like the folks of Moingona, Iowa may want to consider renaming their town.


proggR t1_iu6rd3w wrote

So what you're saying is, whenever someone is looking to party hard, they should say they want to get mooyiinkweena'd? lol

Drunk history should make a spin off covering language. I'd watch that lol


VeryJoyfulHeart59 t1_iu8wzmv wrote

Having lived in the Des Moines area for 7 years, I can attest that very few, if any of the locals are aware of this. However, if they did, they would be quite proud, as Iowans seem to be proud and arrogant regarding any negative attribute of Iowa and Iowans.


corvid_corpus t1_iu5vwo3 wrote

"ah yes, and those are my neighbors, the... Shitheads..."


Middle_Data_9563 t1_iu65fbp wrote

"The people in the next valley? Bunch of small dicks, I can tell you that much."


AbbyRitter t1_iu5jryg wrote

So do we know what the Sioux call themselves or is that lost? I was under the impression there were still Sioux left to ask.


marmorset OP t1_iu5lqhm wrote

There are several groups but essentially there are two main groups based on language divisions, the Lakota and the Dakota. Those are used primarily to identify them, but collectively they're the "Oceti Sakowin" which means "Seven Council Fires."


c_palmtree t1_iu82rfg wrote

My grandfather was from the Yankton Sioux tribe, he always called it Sioux. However my father always said Lakota (or Dakota), so i always say that as well. Depends on who you ask really.


The_Presitator t1_iu6kpls wrote

Funny, I had a professor in college who was probably one of the most educated men on Great Plains Indians and he actually says that is an untrue or coincidental story. According to him, Nadouessioux was a was used by the Algonquin translators the French which meant "those who don't speak Algonquin." So when they would introduce French explorers to new tribes, the ones off the great Lakes would get called Nadouessioux. The French shortened this word to Sioux and the name stuck.

You can see this mistake on old maps marking Indian families as some Sioux family bounds would suddenly be far off from the rest.


marmorset OP t1_iu7pkme wrote

I added a comment mentioning that as an alternative possibility, but that's unconvincing because the Ojibwe told the French that the Iroquois were named "Nadowe" or "big snakes."


Asmallbitofanxiety t1_iu5tsp9 wrote

Lmfao I bet you anything that little snake was really about their dicks

"Yeah those guys are not cool we call them the tiny penis tribe don't even bother talking to them"


kafka123 t1_iudrrzy wrote

It doesn't have to be to be an insult, though. "That group is a bunch of f**king snakes".


Asmallbitofanxiety t1_iue0m39 wrote

>It doesn't have to be to be an insult, though.

It doesn't HAVE to be but I'd bet you anything it was penis related

>"That group is a bunch of f**king snakes".

I'm no expert but I am pretty sure that usage of snake is a distinctly biblical/Judeo-Christian/European connotation that would not be part of Native American parlance prior to colonization

Snakes and snake imagery are often seen in a revered context in Mayan, Aztec, and other ancient Native American cultural heritages


kafka123 t1_iuekynl wrote

I guess there would be less reason to think that snakes were untrustworthy, but there would still be literal snakes around, and that's not necessarily a good thing, even in other cultures where snakes might be seen in revered contexts sometimes.


Henri_Dupont t1_iu6kd3k wrote

The story I have heard, explorers asked a tribe what the name of that river was. The natives thought the were asking about the tribe that lived up that river. "We call them the mud people". The river and the region has been called Missouri ever since. Mud people.


-ThisCharmingMan- t1_iu5vxz9 wrote

“Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky.”


thajcakla t1_iu6vcos wrote

Why do Native Americans refer to themselves by their translated names like "Red Snake" or "Black Eagle?" Why don't they just call themselves by the name in their actual language?


gwaydms t1_iu77o64 wrote

Two reasons I can think of:

  1. Their Native name may be difficult to pronounce for someone who doesn't speak that language. It might even mean something bad or embarrassing if mistranslated or mispronounced. One Sioux, whose name meant His Very Horses Fear Him, found himself called Man Afraid of His Horse.
  2. The meaning of the name is immediately obvious. They may even use the Native name and the translation. The writing traditions of some Native languages have characters and diacritics that may not be clear to a reader.

Tsuyvtlv t1_iuj5zxa wrote

> Why don't they just call themselves by the name in their actual language?

We do, but people always ask us what they "mean" so it's usually easier to just lead with that and wait for "how do you say that in Native American?" which sometimes they ask and sometimes they don't. Then there's the additional complication of having a good traditional Cherokee name like George or Willy, or Susan or Mary, and being asked "but what's your Indian name?"

And I'm really only partly kidding, English names are basically traditional names now among many Tribes since we've been using them for a few centuries.

(Edit: to answer the question actually asked because apparently I can't read the first time through.)


thajcakla t1_iujp626 wrote

I'm talking about personal names, not tribal names.


Tsuyvtlv t1_iujx3nd wrote

Derp, I can't read, apparently. Edited to answer the question you actually asked.


havohej_ t1_iu6wlt9 wrote

Does this guy know how to party or what??!


howhoudinidied t1_iu75za1 wrote

Yosemite means something like, "they are killers."


Oneiropticon t1_iu7a8ys wrote

Am I understanding that they introduced a whole tribe as small dick betas?


Thatoneguy111700 t1_iu9514t wrote

I think one of the Midwest/Rust Belt states, maybe Illinois, gets its name from a native phrase meaning "Speak normally" because the locals and the French explorers/fur traders couldn't understand each other. Actually the majority of American states have Native names.


Aperture_T t1_iu7cahq wrote

It's like if the census man came to my door to ask about my neighbors, and I was like "Oh yeah, that's Jerry the asshole who revs his motorcycle at 3 am."

And then Mr. Census Guy's like "hmm, yes, the asshole residence, you say? Let me write this down."

And from then on all his junk mail is addressed "Jerry Asshole or current resident".


DixieN0rmus t1_iu7cbll wrote

Now I know what the Ojibwe references are in Shoresy now.

I'll keep a mind out for miig, ziig, Jim, Jim and Jim


jrhooo t1_iu7ea61 wrote

TIL meeting early tribes was like meeting Brenda from the church that introduces you to people then immediately whispers in your ear the gossip about they "mmhmm now that one ain't worth spit I'll tell you"


bstabens t1_iu84or6 wrote

I've read somewhere that nearly all tribal people refer to themselves as a variant of "people" or "humans", but the neighbouring tribes get all kinds of pejorative names. Ah, humanity...


Geomancer_1880 t1_iu85sd2 wrote

It's Lakota, our neighbour tribe, they are pain in our assholes. We hunt deer, they hunt deer, we fish salmon, they fish salmon too. Majority of our tribesmen survived the winter, half of they died. Grate success


ProfessorZhirinovsky t1_iu85ysf wrote

This was very typical all over America. The whites would ask the local Indians they’d just met “ok who are those people over there?”, and the response would be what they did indeed call them; “yes, well those are the No Good Bastards Who Go Around Stealing Other Peoples Horses” or some such.


MiniDelo t1_iu8bacq wrote

That group over there are the “poupibuttes” Those ones are the “kakabreff”.


mankee81 t1_iu8quhj wrote

Native Americans = the orginal battle rappers


swissarmychainsaw t1_iu9d9n7 wrote

Hello! Meet my friends! We call ourselves "the People!".
Who them? Oh yes, those are our neighbors. We call them "the stinking dick-nosers".

But in French it probably sounds cool.


marmorset OP t1_iu9pf6n wrote

"Les gens malodorants qui ont un nez comme un pénis" is a mouthful.


paste42 t1_iu6uk6l wrote

That's funny, I just learned this the other day! I was investigating because someone in a TV show said they were Sioux, and it seemed like an exonym, so I checked into it


Itsmezah t1_iuave6v wrote

Lmao but ojibwe ate and still eat dogs