Sunday, February 21, 2016


Q: What is the meaning and language of the word gvlieliga?

AIt's Cherokee. It's a polite comment similar to the English phrase "you're welcome"-- something you say in response to "thank you." Literally it means "I'm glad," or "my pleasure."

Hope that is interesting, have a good day!

Further reading:
Cherokee language
Cherokee alphabet
Cherokee tribe   

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Pennacook Language

Q: Hello. Not sure if I have the right person. But I was wondering how you say grandmother,  Nana in Pennacook.

Thank you

AUnfortunately the Pennacook language was never recorded. They may have been speakers of the Abenaki and/or Wampanoag languages, or they may have spoken their own Algonquian dialect of which we have no record. The Abenaki word for "grandmother" is Nokemes (pronounced no-kuh-muss.) Hopefully that is close enough for your purposes.

Have a good day!

Further reading:
Abenaki language
Wampanoag language
Pennacook Indian tribe   

Monday, December 7, 2015

Muskogee Words

Q: Hello I'm learning to speak Muskogee. I'm trying to get back with my culture. I was wondering how you say "I love you" in Muskogee? Mvto!

AHesci! "I love you" is "Ecenokecvyēt os" (pronounced ih-chih-no-kih-chuh-yeet ose.)

Have a good day!

Further reading:
Muskogee language
Creek Indians

Monday, November 9, 2015

Gitche Gumee

Q: I would like to know whether Gitche Gumee is a true Ojibwa name and if the popularly accepted translation is accurate.

AThank you for writing. Yes, that is the Ojibwe name for Lake Superior. In the modern Ojibwe spelling system it is spelled Gichigami (pronounced gih-chih-guh-mih) and it literally means "big lake."

Hope that is what you were looking for. Have a good day!

Further reading:
Ojibwe language
Native American names in Longfellow's Hiawatha
Native American lakes   

Friday, October 16, 2015

Blackfoot word for wolf?

Q: Hi, on your Blackfoot vocabulary page you said the Blackfoot word for "wolf" is Omahkapi'si. But on another site I saw it is Makoyi. Which is correct?

AThey both are correct. Omahkapi'si is the usual word for a wolf. But Makoyi, or Makoyiwa, is another word for Wolf that is often used in legends and traditional stories, or as an element of Blackfoot names. That is why, for example, the Blackfoot name that was given to Chief Poundmaker, Makoyi-koh-kin, is translated as "Wolf Thin Legs."

Hope that is interesting, have a good day!

Further reading:
Blackfoot language
Blackfoot names
Blackfoot Indian tribe   

Sunday, September 27, 2015

O's with nasal hooks

Q: I found the Apache word "Ts'iłsǫǫsé" which I would like to know how to pronounce. Using your online guide, I can figure out the "ts" and the "ł" but I still am a little confused by the "ǫǫ." Am I correct in interpreting that as two accented "o's"?

AThe marks beneath those vowels are nasal hooks. It means they are pronounced nasally, like the "on" at the end of the French word "bon." The fact that it's a double vowel means that the vowel is held longer than the others.

The accent mark above other vowels, like the é in Ts'iłsǫǫsé, denote high tone.

Hope that is what you were looking for. Have a good day!

Further reading:
Apache language
Apache pronunciation
Apache tribe   

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Black Hawk

Q: An old Sauk woman told us that Black Hawk's name was mistranslated into English and should really be  He-Who-Walks-In-The-Shadow-Of-The-Hawk or Shadow Hawk. My  question is: how do I properly pronounce his correct name in his language. Names are important and should be spoken correctly. Any help you can give us to properly pronouncing Chief Black-Hawk's name in his own language will be much appreciated and gratefully received.

ABlack Hawk's name in Sauk was Mahkateewimešikeehkeehkwa. That is pronounced similar to mah-kah-tay-wih-meh-shih-kay-kay-kwuh. 

I'm not really sure what the lady was trying to say about walking in shadows. There's nothing in this name about walking or shadows, but perhaps something was implied by his name that was only known to people of the older generation. Traditional Algonquian names sometimes had clan implications beyond their literal translations. We can tell you that literally, what this name means is "great black sparrowhawk." Mahkateewi means black, meši means big or great, and keehkeehkwa is the word for a sparrowhawk.

Hope that helps, have a good day!

Further reading:
Sauk language
Sac and Fox people
Hawk mythology