Thursday, September 11, 2014

American Indian word for Vegetarian

Q: Hello, could you please settle a bet by telling me the true meaning of the American Indian word for "vegetarian" in any dialect. Thanks.

AI'm sorry, but we don't know of any Native American language which has a native word for "vegetarian." To the best of my knowledge there was no indigenous tribe in the Americas which practiced true vegetarianism (although there are many with heavily plant-based traditional diets.) We have one Native American volunteer in our organization who is personally a vegetarian and the explanation she gives in her language literally is "does not eat meat."

The idea that there is some Native American tribe out there which embraces vegetarianism probably comes from one of two sources:

1) A common confusion about "Indian religion" or about "American Indians" versus "Indian Americans." Many Hindu, Jainist, or other people from the country of India do indeed practice vegetarianism, and the ambiguous name "Indian" has caused many mistakes over the years.

2) A story about a fictional tribe of Native Americans who are vegetarians and whose tribal name, which was given to them by an adjacent tribe, means "lousy hunters." This is a joke, not a true story.

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

Further reading:
American Indian food
American Indian words  

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to ask about Inuit legends. Is there any legend or tale where a boy transforms into a bear? I'd help me a lot. Thank you!