Caddo Naming Traditions

To an infant a name is given in the family, by any relative, maternal or paternal. 1 White Moon (R. NichaGaiyu’) does not know the relative who gave him this name. The infant name may continue in use or it may be supplanted by a later name, perhaps the name of the being acquired as a guardian spirit, as in the case of Nvhi’, Horned-hoot-owl or, probably, of Moon-head, or by a name given quite as a nickname, as in the case of K’akitsaiyet’, Chewed-up or Ba’tshush, Tail-cut-off, who was in boyhood attacked by a bear; of Hina’kahdi, Snow-chief, from his snow white hair; or of White Moon’s father who is called Tsa’banusha’a, Mr. Blue, from his skill in painting. 2  His father’s infant name White Moon does not know. The infant name may be itself of the nature of a nickname, as, for example, in the case of GandiGUDiD (R.), Little-black-head, so named because when he was little his hair was very black, presumably at birth, or in the case of Dj’ankaiyuDiD (little white round things, R.), Anglicized Little-white-eyes, who had gray eyes. Age class terms are used not uncommonly as given names-Little-girl, Little-boy; and, in one case, shiyatsi, young-man, is a surname.

There are several personal names, in the genealogical tables or in the partial house census, from other languages or referring to other peoples– (Gen. I, 34) is a Delaware word (the boy’s mother was Delaware); Piachiti by Caddo rendered Pichita (Gen. II, 29), a Kickapoo name (the boy’s mother was Kickapoo). Note also Inkinishit’iti, Little-white-man 3 Ingkanish (Gen. III, 5) (the name-bearer’s father being White), Washish (Osage), a Caddo despite his name; Tsa’wetsita (Mr. Wichita, Shikapu’t’iti, and Sha’ta (the name-bearers being in fact Wichita, Kickapoo, and Choctaw). Tahbakumshia (Gen. II, 16) is a Shawnee name, the name-bearer being a Shawnee. The father of Edith Kichai (Gen. I, 31) was named Kitsaiish (from which Kichai is Anglicized) merely because he looked like these people.

As in the foregoing case, patronymics have come into use; although erratically, not always describing the paternal relation. For example, at the Catholic mission school which White Moon went to as a little boy he was given Martin as a patronymic, the name of the second husband of his grandmother, his mother’s mother, with whom he lived-Michael Martin was White Moon’s school name, although his father’s English name was Thomas Wister. The eldest son of Thomas Wister took as patronymic the name of his mother’s second husband, Keys. 4 Sam Binger (Gen. II, 40) takes not the patronymic of his brother and sisters, but as his patronymic the name of the town about which he used to hang.  Of the youngest generation most have no Indian name. Frequently the English name becomes Caddoized, e.g. Michael becomes Maika; Vincent, Binsin; Levi, Nibaihi.

The prefix sa for a female, tsa’ for a male, is used as a title and translated Miss or Mr. “Sir,” we might translate, as, for example, in tsa’iiniGu (R. iiniGu’, mountain or prayer), the term for a Christian cleric–Sir priest; or in tsa’shiadinana (braid-down-back), the term for Chinaman–Sir Chinaman; or in tsa’niotsi, Sir Cry-baby, a nickname borne by three men of whom one is a White married to an Indian. Tsa’ may be omitted; were sa omitted the inference would be that you were referring to a male i.e. sa is never omitted; just as in English usage the patronymic alone is not used for a woman. But even with these prefixes of respect you are supposed not to call your seniors by name. “It almost kills people older than you if you call them by name.” In this respect it is significant that White Moon does not know his mother’s name. (Nor did Pardon know his grandfather’s Indian name.) She died when she was nineteen, during his infancy, and White Moon’s grandmother, her mother, has always referred to her by the junior reciprocal, hanin.

And yet, his stepmother, Margaret Deer, White Moon will call Margaret, she calling him, Maika (Mike). And White Moon calls by name Ross Maro’, although Ross is the husband of one called “little mother.” But Ross is a contemporary of White Moon, and Margaret Deer belongs to the younger rather than to the older generation. In the younger generation the use of names is habitual.

There is no reluctance, according to White Moon and Pardon, to refer to the dead by name. Ingkanish denied this, adding that he himself, however, did not entertain the reluctance.

Where are two instances in the genealogies of mother and son having the same name – Kasihshu (Gen. I, 18, 46), and Chanatih (Gen. II, 14, 30). Whether the son was named from the mother or mother from son, White Moon does not know. His suggestion that the mother might well have been named from the son indicates some expression of teknonymy with which in general he seems not unfamiliar. The mother of one Vincent Johnson is referred to as Sabinsin, a positive case of teknonymy. There is no case of a man being referred to by the name of his offspring.

A woman may be referred to by her husband’s name e.g. Sawashish, “Mrs.” Osage, the wife of Washish.Citations:

  1. Cp. Dorsey 2: 39.[]
  2. More Probably, I surmise, from his connection with the Ghost dance, see p. 47.[]
  3. The etymology of the term inkinish (ingkanish) for White man is obscure. A White is also called hanu (abbreviated from hayanu) haGaiyu’, human, white, in distinction to the term for Indian, hayanu atinu’, human, red.[]
  4. White Moon insists that Keys is the son of Wister, but White Moon does not refer Keys as brother, nor was Keys an heir to Waster’s land.[]


Parsons, Elsie Clews. Notes on the Caddo, Memories of the American Anthropological Association. Supplement to American Anthropologist, Volume 43, No. 3, Part 2. 1921.

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