Monday, May 19, 2014

Noon Way

Q: When I was a kid, I attended Camp Kennebec in North Belgrade, Maine. The youngest campers were divided into Indian tribes (MicMac, Malacite, Penobscot, Passamoquoddy – all of the Abenaki nation).  Several times during the season, we had “Grand Council”.  I recall that the “Sachem” would greet us saying something that sounds like “ayoon kooneyaasnay”  and we would respond  “noon way”.  Does that have any meaning in any of the Abenaki dialects or is it gibberish made up by the camp director?

A: It doesn't mean anything in any of the Wabanaki languages, but I bet it was borrowed from Lakota Sioux. Nunwe (pronounced somewhat similar to noon way) is a Lakota way of saying "Amen!" The other phrase may be corrupted Lakota too, though I don't recognize it. Let me post it and see if some of our native speakers can puzzle it out. :-)

 ETA: Yes, I believe these phrases were taken from a 1930 book called "Woodcraft and Indian Lore," which you can see here.

The language is definitely (slightly corrupted) Lakota Sioux, not Abenaki.

Have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Abenaki language
Lakota Sioux language  
Sioux tribes