Monday, March 17, 2014


Q: Hi, I am looking for the name of a great great grandma of mine. She is called See As Kau on the petition of one of the treaties. A person with knowledge of the HoChunk language thought her name may be Siaska of the bear clan. What are your thoughts? Any idea of the meaning and why she was given the name? I would appreciate your input as it took me so many years to gather this information.

A: Seems plausible to us. It's hard to know for sure with proper names from many years ago, since they've usually been written down somewhat randomly by non-native speakers. Siaska means "sweet foot" or "delicious paw," more or less, referring to a bear's paw. But I know from experience how divergent those treaty spellings can get. It could have been Cehaska, "white robe." It could have been Sįaska, "good rice" (though that seems like a very unlikely Siouan personal name-- could have been a nickname though.) It's hard to completely confirm a person's actual name from a single spelling in a ledger. We can agree with your friend that "sweet foot" is a believable name, though! Here's a book where it's listed as a Bear Clan name (spelled Si-asga): The Winnebago Tribe.

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

Further reading:
Ho-Chunk language
Ho-Chunk tribe
Native American names