Trickster names

crazy_horse_surrender_leNaming has power.

Studying framing, propaganda and public relations—and watching Mad Men—helps strip the artifice created when naming things.

Corn syrup becomes corn sugar.

Inheritance tax is reframed as death tax.

A sonic boom is transformed as the sound of freedom.

As we hiked this week at Mount Hood I am reminded indigenous folks call the volcano Wy’East.

Pity that today the peak is known for a Brit (Alexander Arthur Hood) who never even saw Wy’East.

As we ford Newton Creek (named for a surveyor) I wonder what the Indians called this glacial stream.

Still, Indians exerted their own power over naming.

When Crazy Horse went to Ft. Robinson for the last few months of his life in 1877, hundreds of followers accompanied him.

Their names are recorded in the official register.

Names like Shits On His Hand, Pisses In The Horn, Soft Prick and Tanned Nuts, according to writer Bruce Brown, who researched the records at the Red Cloud Agency.

Whites making fun of the Indians?

Nope: Brown asserts the Indians were having a joke on their captors.

I like to think this is the Sioux trickster in play.

Image of the book available from the Nebraska Historical Society


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
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