Yellow Bird: Oops I did it again...
Facebook Twitter Email

"My sister-in-law is a language teacher at White Shield school, and she speaks fluently. She also uses her Indian name. Yes, most of us have two names - one that we use in non-Native society and an Indian name that usually is given to us as part of the traditions. My sister-in-law (you'll notice I haven't used her name. I don't want to risk ANY further embarrassment to her) has a particularly difficult name to pronounce, but after saying it over and over, I thought I had it down - no problem. I got through the first few Sahnish words on the agenda without a smirk from the audience.

But when I introduced her, the audience broke into tumultuous laughter, and the Pawnee men nearly rolled on the floor, they were laughing so hard. My mother told me afterward that I called my sister-in-law Coyote Woman instead of her real Indian name. After I handed the microphone to her and settled into my seat, the chief of the Pawnee tapped me on the shoulder. The restrained smile on his face told me I was in trouble. “Do you know what you just said in Pawnee?” he asked. (Our languages, Pawnee and Sahnish, are somewhat the same but not identical.) I thought the worst, and I was right: I had said something you wouldn't repeat in mixed company. . ."

Get the Story:
DORREEN YELLOW BIRD COLUMN: Naa-shoo . . . Naaschu . . . oh, forget it (The Grand Forks Herald 9/24)

Related Stories:
Yellow Bird: Reservation elections (9/17)
Yellow Bird: Learning from 9-11 (9/16)
Yellow Bird: Remembering 9-11 (9/10)
Yellow Bird: Protecting the Badlands (9/9)
Yellow Bird: My secret nickname (9/2)
Yellow Bird: Appreciating art (8/28)
Yellow Bird: An unsung hero (8/26)
Yellow Bird: I say Sakakawea (8/20)
Yellow Bird: Changing views on rape (8/19)