Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gros Ventre Dictionary

Q: Is there a detailed dictionary to learn the Gros Ventre language? If so, how can I get it?

A: There is no published Gros Ventre dictionary that we know of. Sorry! If you're good at linguistics, you could try this book, Arapaho Dialects. Gros Ventre is one of the Arapahoan languages discussed in that book. There is a lot of Gros Ventre vocabulary in there. It can be a little hard to understand if you're not familiar with linguistics, though.

You could also try contacting the Center for the Studies of the Indigenous Languages of the West. Last we heard, they were working on developing a Gros Ventre dictionary... but that was several years ago, so we have no idea of the status of that project.

Hope that helps, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Gros Ventre language
Gros Ventre Indians
American Indian dictionaries

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Q: I am looking for the meaning of the Indian name for a creek that runs through our families property. The name of this creek is Ske-ne-da which is a Winnebago/Hochunk name. The creek is located in Dane County, WI. The name is from a 1835 map made by Horace Greely I ran across at the State Historical Society. Today it is called Door Creek.

 A: This is probably what is called a "pseudo-Indian" or "faux Indian" name, made up by non-Indian mapmakers in the 1800's based on Indian words. (We have a lot of those in Minnesota thanks to Henry Schoolcraft.) It was said to mean "pure water" in the Ho-Chunk language. "Ske" does mean "pure" in Ho-Chunk, and "Nira" does mean "water" (it was frequently written as "Nida" in English sources in the 1800's.)

The reason our Ho-Chunk volunteer believes this was a faux Indian name rather than a real one is that adjectives almost always attach to the end of nouns in the Ho-Chunk language. If this were a real Ho-Chunk name it should have been Niraske, not Skeneda. So it looks to us more like the cartographer picked the words from a dictionary (or, as is usually more common, from a book of legends or folklore,) than that he adapted it from the Ho-Chunk name for the creek. With place names though, it's hard to ever know their origin with 100% certainty unless you find the diary of the person who recorded the name-- proper names get corrupted so much over time that it's hard for native speakers of the original language to even recognize them sometimes!

Hope that helps, have a good day,
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Ho-Chunk language
Ho-Chunk people
American Indian names

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wampanoag Numbers

 Q: I'm going to be talking to a 2nd-grade class about the Wampanoag and Timucua Indians for a few minutes.  I've been  making presentation cards comparing the two indigenous tribes that, hopefully, are geared towards 7 and 8 year olds.  Anyway, I thought it would be fun to show them how to count to 10 in both languages, but I can only find  numbers to 1 to 5 for the Wampanoag on your site.  Is that all that's known?  Do you happen to have  numbers 6 through 10 anywhere?

 A: Yes, those numbers were taken from an 18th-century dictionary of Massachusett (Wampanoag). Here is the full set of ten numbers from that dictionary:

1) aquit
2) nees
3) nis
4) yoaw
5) abbona
6) nota
7) enotta
8) sonaske
9) assaquoquin
10) piocke

The source is Wood's Vocabulary of Massachusett.

Of course, this is a very old dictionary, and it lacks a pronunciation guide or standardized spelling even for the English words. The modern Wampanoag tribe is working on a language revival program, where they are taking words from old texts and from cultural memory and comparing them with words from related Algonquian languages to reconstruct their native language with a real alphabet, pronunciation guide, etc. to help their children learn to speak it again. This is a work in progress, but if you're interested, here's their webpage:

Hope that helps, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Wampanoag language
Wampanoag Indians
American Indian numbers

Monday, November 4, 2013

Kids' Corner: Crow and Blackfoot

Q: Hi. Did the Crow ever have their own language? Were the Crow ever part of the Blackfoot? What about the Absarokee?

 A: Yes, the Crow have their own language. It is still spoken by some Crow Indians today. Here is a website about the Crow language.

The Blackfoot are a different tribe. Their language is not related to the Crow language. They are neighbors, however. They are both Native people of the northern Plains.

Absarokee is the Crow tribe's name for themselves in their own language.

Hope that helps, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Crow Indians for Kids
Blackfoot Indians for Kids
Plains Indian cultures