Portrait (Front) of Charles Ike, Interpreter 1894

Traditional Knowledge: 

Federal Indian Policies

The name attainment towards maturity was killed off by "civilizing the Indian." All a part of the federal government's policy to "kill the Indian and save the man." This was another step to assimilation and many were forced into new names in order to get on government rolls to receive the benefits promised via treaties.Yet, many Indian given names were misunderstood by the person recording them on the rolls. I interviewed one elder who had an unusual first name and last name. I asked him how he came about his name. He told me it was a splitting of his true name and written as such because the person recording his existence did not correctly pronounce his name! At least, in some manner, he was able to keep his given Indian name. Other names may have been "borrowed" from a favored agent or supportive government official, or given as a "Christian" name from joining a particular church. One man was given about four saintly names from baptismals into different churches. He said he was certain to get into heaven now because of all his names and churches! In many images photographed historically and shown in history books, it seems only the man's name was recorded. The Indian woman was usually noted as that man's "wife." Even that bit of unequal gender recognition assimilated into Indian men who began to call themselves "chief" instead of the Plateau "headman" designation. Headman was a title given to a male person who had distinguished himself honorably in his village, perhaps as a hunter, a fisherman, or someother practice important to his society. Indian woman also carried the title of leadership in her duties perhaps by her ability to tell the readiness of roots for digging in an annual season. Titles and names have always been used in Indian Country as identifiers of character and ability, and honor; or the lack thereof. Vivian M. Adams, Yakama

Intertribal Relations

Many times throughout a Plateau individual's life, a new name may be given if events warrant such. Within the family, in the community and in other tribes and bands a person may be known by several names. His various names are how he is identified in that particular society. A name could be an endearment called so by family members, and in a different set of people that individual's name may define an attribute or characteristic. Indian names also signified a rite-of-passage into maturity and accomplishment and an individual may be know by only that name until death. Vivian Adams, Yakama