Many tribal names mean "People," "Us," "human beings," or similar words.

 The names below are for those groups whose name means something other than "People," "Us," "human beings," or similar words. 

Some tribes names were acquired from Europeans,

 using a second tribe's name for the first tribe. 

The "New Name" was used so much, it gained an "official" status,

 or became the common name.

 In many cases, tribal name origins are lost in the mists of history.

 Some definitions below are based on conjecture by historians.

 In some cases, some tribal members would agree with the names below,

 while other members will not. In essense, this is a list of commonly used definitions.

 

by Phil Konstantin

You can read all about this and much more in his book:

This Day in North American Indian History

click to check his site





abnaki:those living at the sunrise (easterners)
achomawi:river
acolapissa:those who listen and see
ahtena:                 ice people
akwesasne:              land where the partridge drums
alabama:                i clear the thicket
apache:                 enemy (zuni word)
apalachicola:           people of the other side
apalachee:              people of the other side
arikara:                horns or elk people, or corn eaters
assiniboin:             ones who cook using stones (ojibwa word)
atakapa:                man eater
atikamekw               white fish
atsina:                 white clay people
atsugewi:               hat creek indians
avoyel:                 people of the rocks
bayogoula:              people of the bayou
bidai:                  brushwood (caddo word)
brule:                  burned thighs
caddo:                  true chiefs
cayuga:                 place locusts were taken out, 
                        people at the mucky land
cayuse:                 stones or rocks (French-Canadian word)
chakchiuma:             red crawfish people
chehalis:               sand
cherokee:               cave people (choctaw word), 
                        people of different speech (creek word) 
chetco:                 close to the mouth of the stream
cheyenne:               red talkers (dakota word)
chickahominy:           hominy people
chickamauga:            dwelling place of the chief (creek word)
chipwyan:               pointed skins (cree word)
chitimacha:             they have cooking vessels
chontal:                stranger (nahuatl word)
choula:                 fox
chowanoc:               people at the south
chumash:                people who make the shell bead money
clallam:                strong people
clatsop:                dried salmon
cocopah:                river people 
comanche:               anyone who wants to fight me all the time (ute word)
cowichan:               basking in the sun that warms your back or warm land
crow:                   crow, sparrowhawk, bird people
dakota:                 allie
erie:                   log tail or cat people (iroquois word)
fox:                    red earth people
git' lissums:           people of the Lissums
gitksan:                people of the northern Skena
gros ventre:            big bellies, one who cooks with a stone, 
                        he cooks by roasting (see atsina)
hach winik:             true people
han:                    those who live along the river
havasupai:              people of the blue green water
hiute:                  bowmen
honniasont:             wearing something around the neck
hopi:                   peaceful ones or well-mannered people
houma:                  red
huchnom:                mountain people
hunkpapa:               campers at the opening of the circle
hupa:                   trinity river
huron:                  ruffian, head of a boar (french words)
hwal'bay (hualapai):    people of the tall pines  
ihanktonwan:            dwellers at the end
ihanktonwana:           little dwellers at the end        
iowa:                   sleepy ones (dakota word)
iroquois:               real adders (snake) or we of the extended lodge
jatibonicu:             people of the great sacred high waters
jatibonuco:             great people of the sacred high waters
jicaque:                ancient person (nahuatl word)
jicarilla:              little basket weaver (spanish word)
kainai:                 many chiefs
kakwchak                porcupine people
kan-hatki:              white earth
kanienkahaka:           people of the place of flint
kanza:                  people of the south wind
karok:                  upstream
kato:                   lake
kawchottine:            people of the great hares
ketsei:                 going in wet sand
kickapoo:               he stands about
kiowa:                  principal people
klallam:                strong people
klamath:                people of the lake
kotsoteka:              buffalo eaters
kutcha-kutchin:         those who live on the flats
kwakiutl:               beach on the side north of the river or smoke of the river
kwuda:                  people coming out
lakota                  friend or ally (same with dakota & nakota)
latgawa:                those living in the uplands
lenni lenape:           genuine men
lillooet:               wild onion
lipan:                  warriors of the mountains
machapunga:             bad dust
mahican:                wolf
makah:                  cape people
maliseet:               broken talkers
massachuset:            at the hills
mdewankantonwan:        dwellers of the spirit lake
menominee:              wild rice men
miami:                  people on the peninsula, cry of the crane, pigeon       
michigamea:             great water
miniconjou:             planters by water
missouri:               great muddy, people with wooden canoes
moapa:                  mosquito creek people
moatokni:               southerners
modoc:                  southerners
mohave:                 three mountains
mohawk:                 the possessors of the flint, coward or 
                        man eater (abenaki words)
mohegan:                wolf
moneton:                big water people
munsee:                 at the place where the stones are gathered together
nahane:                 people of the west
narragansett:           people of the small point
nanticoke:              people of the tidewaters
natsit-kutchin:         those who live off the flats
navajo:                 cultivated field in an arroyo (tewa word)
nipmuck:                freshwater fishing place
nisga'a:                people of the Nass River
nokoni:                 those who turn back
nooksack:               mountain men
nootka:                 along the coast
oglala:                 scatters their own
ojibwa:                 to roast till puckered up
okelousa:               blackwater
okmulgee:               where water boils up
omaha:                  upstream people or people going against the current
oneida:                 a boulder standing up, people of the standing stone
onondaga:               people on top of the hills
opata:                  hostile people (pima word)
ottawa:                 to trade
otto:                   lechers 
pahodja:                dusty nones
pakiutlema:             people of the gap
pamunkey:               rising upland
pantch-pinunkansh:      men altogether red
papagos:                desert people, bean people
papinashuash            the ones who like to laugh
pascagoula:             bread people
passamaquoddy:          plenty of pollock
paugusset:              where the narrows open out
pawnee:                 horn people, men of men, look like wolves
penateka:               honey eaters
pennacook:              down hill
penobscot:              it forks on the white rocks or the descending 
                        ledge place, at the stone place
pensacola:              hair people
people of the lakes:    tribes near the great lakes       
peoria:                 carrying a pack on his back
pequot:                 fox people or destroyers
piegan:                 scabby robes
piekuakamit             the ones from the flat lake
piikani:                poor robe
pilthlako:              big swamp
pima:                   river people, (papago word for "I don't know")
pojoaque:               drinking place 
potawatomi:             people of the place of the fire, keepers of
                        the fire, (fire nation, fire people)
powhatan:               falls in a current of water
pshwanwapam:            stony ground
puyallup:               shadow
quahadi:                antelope
quapaw:                 downstream people
quinnipiac:             long water country 
sac:                    people of the yellow earth or people of the outlet
salish:                 flatheads
sans arc:               without bows
schaghticoke:           at the river forks
sekani:                 dwellers on the rocks
seminole:               separatist, runaway or breakaway, peninsula people
seneca:                 place of stone, people of the standing rock, 
                        great hill people
shawnee:                south or southerners
sihasapa sioux:         blackfeet
siksika:                blackfeet or black foot
sioux:                  snake (french version of other tribe's name)
sisitonwan:             dwellers of the fish ground
skokomish:              river people
taino:                  we the good people
takelma:                those living along the river
tanima:                 liver eaters
tangipahoa:             corn gatherers
tantawats:              southern men
tatsanottine:           people of the copper water
tawakoni:               river bend among red hills
tejas:                  friendly
tenawa:                 down stream
tennuth-ketchin:        middle people
teton:                  dwellers of the prairie
tewa:                   moccasins
thlingchadinne:         dog-flank people
tinde:                  people of the mountains
titonwan:               dwellers of the plains
tonawanda:              confluent stream
tonkawa:                they all stay together or most human of people
tsattine:               lives among the beavers
tsetsaut:               people of the interior (niska word)
tsimshian:              people of the river
tsuu t'ina:             great number of people
tubatulabal:            pinenut eaters (shoshone word)
tuscarora:              hemp gatherers, the shirt wearing people
two kettle:             two boilings
unalachtgo:             tidewater people
vunta-ketchin:          those who live among the lakes 
wahpekute:              shooters amoung the leaves
wahpetonwan:            dwellers amoung the leaves
wailaki:                north language (wintun word)
wakokai:                blue heron breeding place
walapai:                pine tree people
wallawalla:             little river
wampanoag:              eastern people
wappo:                  brave
waptailmin:             people of the narrow river
wasco:                  cup, those who have the cup
wichita:                big arbor (choctaw word), raccoon eyes
winnebago:              filthy water people
wiwohka:                roaring water
wyandot:                people of the peninsula, islanders
yakama:                 runaway, pregnant people, people of the narrows
yamparika:              rooteaters or yapeaters
yavapai:                people of the sun, crooked mouth people
yoncalla:               those living at ayankeld
yuchi:                  situated yonder
yuki:                   stranger (wintun word)
yurok:                  downstream (karok word)


        

Alternative Tribal Names

 

Many tribes have more than one name.

 Some tribes have a name they give to the world, 

and another name which was meant to be used only amoungst themselves.

 Some tribes became know by the names other tribes called them. 

For example, Cherokee is name given to them by others. 

Eventually, so many Europeans/Americans and other tribes called them this, 

they started calling themselves Cherokee, too. 

There are many variations on how Europeans spelled tribal names.

 Lewis & Clark refer to the IOWA (pronounced Eye-oh-way) Indians with spellings that varied from page to page. 

I have not included every possible phonetic spelling, just some of the major ones.

One additional point, some tribes have been refered to by a name which is not their real name, nor do they officially acknowledge that name. 

However, because it has been misused so often, I have listed the incorrect name.

 I have listed it so readers could understand the original reference.


by Phil Konstantin



abenaki (western):      alnonba, abnaki
adai:                   nateo
adamstown:              upper mattaponi
alabama:                alibamu
aleut:                  alutiiq, unangan
anadarko:               nadaco
anishinabeg:            chippewa, ojibwa
apache:                 n de,dine,tinde,inde,shis inde,
apache mohave:          yavapai
appomattoc:             apamatuks
arapahoe:               inunaina, atsina
arikara:                northern pawnee
assiniboin:             hohe
athapaskan:             dene
atsina:                 haaninin
aztec:                  nahua, nahuatl
bannock:                panaiti 
bear river indians:     niekeni
bellabella:             heiltsuqu, heiltsuk
bellacoola:             nuxalk
blackfoot:              nitsi-tapi, peigan, piegan, pikuni (northern),  
                        sarcee, siksika, sisaka (southern), sihasapa, stoney
blood:                  kainai, kainaiwa
brule sioux:            si can gu
caddo:                  adai, eyeish, hasinai, hainai, kadohodacho, 
                        kadohadacho confederacy, natchitoches  
calusa:                 calos, carlos, muspa
campo:                  kumeyaay
Carrier:                wet'suwet'en
catawba:                esaw, ushery
cayuga:                 kweniogwen, iroquois
cayuse:                 wailetpu, te-taw-ken
chakchiuma:             shaktci homma
chemehuevi:             tantawats
chetco:                 tolowa
cherokee:               tsa-la-gi, keetoowah, ani-yun-wiya,
                        anikituhwagi
cheyenne:               dzi tsi stas, sowonia (southern), 
                        o mi sis (northern)
chippewa:               anishinabeg, ojibwa
chitimacha:             pantch-pinunkansh
choctaw:                chakchiuma, chatot
chumash:                santa barbara indians
clackamas:              guithlakimas
clallam:                s'klallam, nusklaim,tlalem
cocopah:                xawitt kunyavaei 
coeur d'alene:          skitswish
comanche:               detsanayuka, kotsoteka, nermernuh, noconi, nokoni, numunuu, 
                        padouca (sioux word), penateka, pennande, quahadi,
                        yamparika 
comox:                  catloltx
copane:                 kopano, quevenes
cora:                   nayarit
coushatta:              koasati, acoste
cowichan:               khowutzun
cree:                   kenistenoag,iyiniwok
creek:                  muskogee, abihika, abeika, hitchiti
crow:                   absaroke        
cuthead:                pabaksa
delaware:               lenni lenape, lenape, abnaki, alnanbai, wampanoag,
                        munsee, unami, unalachitgo, powhatan-renápe
dieguenos:              comeya, tipai, ipai, kumeyaay
eskimo:                 inuit, inupiat, inuvialuit, yupik 
fox:                    meskwaki, mesquaki 
ganawese:               conoys, piscataways
gros ventre:            atsina (prairie),hidatsa(missouri),ah-ah-nee-nin,minnetaree
hainai:                 ioni
havasupai:              suppai
hopi:                   hopitu,hopitu shinumu, moqui, hapeka
hualapai:               hwal'bay, walapai
hupa:                   natinnohhoi
huron:                  wendat, wyandot
ingalik athapaskans:    deg het'an
iowa:                   pahodja
iroquois:               haudenosaunee,hodenosaunee,ongwanosionni,
                        hotinonshonni
jemez:                  tuwa
jicarilla apache:       tinde
kamia:                  tipai
kansa:                  hutanga, kansas, kanza, kaw, 
kato:                   tlokeang
keres:                  pueblo, acoma, cochiti, isleta, laguna, san felipe,
                        santa ana, santo domingo, zia
kickapoo:               kiwigapawa     
kiowa:                  kwuda,tepda,tepkinago, gaigwu
kiowa apache:           nadiisha dena
klamath:                eukshikni maklaks, auksni
klickitat:              qwulhhwaipum
kootenai:               kuronoqa, kutenai
koso:                   panamint
kutchin:                gwich'in
kutenai:                asanka,
lillooet:               lil'wat, st'át'imc
lipan:                  naizhan
lower sioux:            mdewakanton, wahpekute
lumbee:                 cheraw
maicopa:                pipatsji
makah:                  kwenetchechat
mandan:                 metutahanke (after 1837), numakaki (before 1837)
manhattan:              rechgawawank
manso:                  maise, mansa, manse, manxo, gorreta, gorrite, tanpachoa 
maricopa:               xalchidom pii-pash, pipatsje, pee-posh
meskwaki:               fox
miami:                  twightwis, twa-h-twa-h, Wa-ya-ta-no-ke, oumameg or omaumeg 
                       (chippewa), pkiwi-leni (shawnee) 
micmac:                 mi'kmaq
missouri:               niutachi
moapa:                  moapariats
modoc:                  moatokni, okkowish
mohave:                 mojave, tzinamaa, ahamakav
mohawk:                 kanienkahaka, kaniengehage, abenaki, iroquois
molala:                 latiwe
mono:                   monache
moratoc:                nottoway
mosopelea:              ofom
munsee:                 minasinink
nanticoke:              unalachtgo
navajo:                 diné, dineh, tenuai, navaho
nez perce:              neemeepoo, kamuinu, nimipu, tsutpeli,
                        sahaptin, chopunnish (e)
nisga'a:                git' lissums
nootka:                 nuu-chah-nulth
northern ojibwa:        saulteaux
ogallala:               okandanda
ojibwa:                 chippewa, anishinabeg, missisauga, saginaw
okanagon:               isonkuaili
oneida:                 iroquois 
onondaga:               iroquois
osage:                  wakon, wazhazhe, pahatsi, utsehta
ottawa:                 adawe
otto:                   chewaerae
oulaouaes:              necariages
paiute:                 numa
panamint:               timbisha
papagos:                tohono o'odham, ak-chin, tohono au'autam
passamaquoddy:          peskedemakddi
patchogue:              unkechaug
pawnee:                 pariki, chahiksichahiks, ckirihki kuruuriki, awah.i 
pecos:                  pueblos from jemez
pend d'oreilles:        kalispel
penobscot:              pannawanbskek, penaubsket
petun:                  khionontateronon, tionontati 
peigan:                 piegan, blood, kainai, pikuni, pigunni
pima:                   onk akimel au-authm, tohono o'odham, a-atam, 
                        akimul au'autam, akimel O'oodham   
piro:                   tortuga, 
pit river:              achomawi, atsugewi
poosepatuck:            unkechaug
quapaw:                 quapah, akansea, ouaguapas
quileute:               quil-leh-ute
quinault:               qui-nai-elts
sac and fox:            sauk, meshkwakihug, fox, british band
sahwnee:                shawadasay 
salish:                 okinagan, flathead
sans arc:               itazipco
santee:                 sisseton
saponi:                 monasukapanough
sarcee:                 tsuu t'ina
seminole:               ikaniuksalgi, alachua, mikasuki
seneca:                 iroquois
serrano:                cowangachem, mohineyam
shawnee:                savannah
shoshone:               shoshoni, snake
sioux:                  brule,  dakota, hunkpapa, isanyati, itazipco, 
                        lakota, mnikowoju, nakota, ocheti shakowin, 
                        oglala, oohenunpa, sicangu, sihasapa, teton, 
                        titunwan
sissipahaw:             haw
skagit:                 humaluh
skoskomish:             twana
squinamish:             swinomish
slotas:                 red river metis 
songish:                lkungen
southern paiute:        numa
st.francis:             abenaki
st.regis mohawk:        akwesasne, kaniengehage
stockbridge:            mahican
stoney                  bearspaw, chiniki, and wesley/goodstoney)
susquehanna:            susquehannock, conestoga
taidnapam:              upper cowlitz
tejas:                  hasinai, cenis
tenino:                 melilema
teton:                  brule, hunkpapa, itazipco, mnikowoju, oglala, 
                        oohenunpa, sicangu, sihasapa, titunwan
tewa:                   pueblo, nambe, pojoaque, san ildefonso, san juan,
                        santa clara, tesuque
thompson:               nlaka'pamux
tigua:                  pueblo, tiwa, tortuga
tillamook:              killamuck
timucua:                utina,acuera
timbisha:               panamint
tiwa:                   pueblo, tortuga
tobacco:                khionontateronon, tionontati
toltec:                 chiaimeca mochanecatoca
tonkawa:                titskan watitch, titskanwatitch, tonkaweya
tubatulabal:            bahkanapul, kern river
tunica:                 yoron
tuscarora:              skarure, iroquois
tututni:                tolowa
twana:                  tuadhu
two kettle:             oohenonpa
umpqua:                 etnemitane
upper chehalis:         kwaiailk
upper sioux:            sisseton, wahpeton
ute:                    noochi,notch, nuciu
wampanoag:              pokanoket
warm springs:           tilkuni
wasco:                  galasquo
watlala:                katlagakya
whilkut:                redwood indians
winnebago:              winipig
wichita:                kitikiti'sh, kidikittashe, Wia chitch (choctaw word)
wishram:                ilaxluit, tlakluit
wyandot:                huron, talamatans
yakama:                 yakima, tiin-ma, waptailmin, pakiutlema
yazoo:                  chakchiuma
yoncalla:               tchayankeld
yuchi:                  chisa
yuma:                   quechan, euqchan
zuni:                   ashiwi,taa ashiwani
       

There are many ways to communicate, but there is one language.

everything that lives understands:

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