Native American Name Giving Tradition

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Danielle Quilla
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
In addition to focusing on the accomplishments of past generations, the November 2015 Native American Heritage Month's theme is "Growing native leaders and enhancing the seven generations."

In the 2015 Presidential Proclamation, President Barack Obama stated, "This month, let us reaffirm our responsibility to ensure each generation is defined by a greater sense of opportunity than the last, and let us pledge to maintain our strong relationship with tribal nations across America."

Although it is important to move forward, to one particular Airman with the 6th Communications Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, some traditions are worth continuing.

As a Sicangu Lakota member growing up on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Reservation located in Mission, South Dakota, Airman 1st Class Cristi Provencial, said that one tradition in particular stood out to her.

"When I was younger, I saw a family friend receive her 'Indian name' after finishing her master's degree," Provencial explained. "I remember my mom telling me that one day after I graduate college and make something of myself, I will have that same ceremony."

Native American naming traditions vary from tribe to tribe and are often given either privately or publicly at different times during an individual's life to reflect his or her milestones, accomplishments and actions.

For the Lakota, there are six classes of names: birth order, honor, special deed, nicknames, and secret or spirit names. 

Typically, it takes weeks or even months to plan a name giving ceremony where gifts, food and prayers are arranged. A tribe elder also must agree to receive the individual's name, which most often comes to him and her through a dream or vision.

Throughout her high school career, the memory of her friend's naming motivated Provencial to strive and make her parents proud. She went on to graduate from high school and complete her Associate's Degree in Business Management in 2013.

However, with limited opportunity to continue her education at home, she decided to make the three-hour drive to the closest city to enlist in the U. S. Air Force.

"It was the first time I had been away from home for a long time," Provencial said. "It was scary, but I feel like a different person now."

Since joining in February 2014, the 23-year-old has gained a different perspective of the world and looks forward to continuing her education to complete her bachelor's degree.

As President Obama also mentioned in his proclamation, "By endeavoring to shape a future in which every citizen has the chance to build a life worthy of their hopes and dreams, we can ensure that ours is a country that is true to our spirit and to our enduring promise as a land where all things are possible for all people."

In the near future, Provencial hopes to go home and celebrate her accomplishments with her family and receive her Indian name.

Until then, she will continue to work toward her long-term goal of opening her own business on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Reservation to help provide more jobs for her community.

"Whether it is a youth center, movie theater, or bowling alley, I would like to start a place where kids and teens have somewhere to go after school and during the summer," Provencial said. "Anything that will help shine some light on things back home."