Native American Psychology

April 20, 2023
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This is the first article in the Psychology Today blog "What's in a Name?" in which we will ponder the psychological ramifications of names, beginning with our oldest naming tradition, that of the Native Americans. Using Juliet's famous question, "What's in a name?" I invited women to discuss anything they wanted about their given names.

Of all of the essays I received, the Native Americans had the most complex naming tradition, which can help the rest of us enrich our own sense of identity. Brooke (Wompsi'kuk Skeesucks) a Mohegan, notes that in the Native American naming tradition, names should change. Children receive names that are descriptive, they may be given new names at adolescence, and again as they go through life according to what their life experiences and accomplishments are. Society bestows a new name–a new name is earned. W.S. Brooke explains, "Some people are like lakes. They change very little as they age. (...) Some people are like rivers. When you trace the Mississippi, or any other river at its source, it can be very small. Later on it can be wide and strong. When it meets the ocean, it spreads out." In other words, names should change as the individual changes.

Before you say, "That's neither practical nor possible in modern society, " pause for a moment and consider that we have a pale shadow of this Native American naming tradition: our nicknames. Although most of us have only one or two nicknames, some women have several and some have a veritable profusion, which continue into adulthood.1 Nicknames provide insight not only into the individual but also into how other people think of her–they are a double prism rather than a one-way mirror. Nicknames also serve as time markers. As Jennifer noted, "It is interesting when I think about it. I answer to most ‘J' names. I can tell who/where many of my friendships stem from by what name they call me." Unlike the Native Americans, most of us don't continue collecting new names once we become adults.

Many of the essayists describe growing into their given name. One essayist describes growing into her given name, accompanied with the delightful and common feeling of finally being "all grown-up"–a circular evolution going back to the name given at birth. The challenge with this circular evolution is to remember that once we have grown into our given names, we have not attained the goal but only started the journey. The Native American naming tradition inspires the individual to continue to change throughout life.

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Read Native American Postcolonial Psychology (S U N Y
Read Native American Postcolonial Psychology (S U N Y ...
Dr. Thomas Pinkson - Native American Psychology
Dr. Thomas Pinkson - Native American Psychology
PDF Download Native American Postcolonial Psychology S U N
PDF Download Native American Postcolonial Psychology S U N ...