It’s in the name

osage woman Library of Congrress circa 1900Beloved and I traipsed down to the county office this week to fill out the forms, show our identification cards and hand over 60 bucks for an Oregon marriage license.

The clerk asked if I wanted to change my name.

My independence is a fearsome beast and I’ve held tightly onto the name my parents gave me.

Women in North America were considered–literally–property of their husbands and I felt taking my spouse’s name would be submitting to a former era when women were property.

Sioux and Osage relatives receive more than one name.

For example, Crazy Horse was known as Curly until his father believed Curly had earned a warrior’s name.

His father gave his own name to his son: Crazy Horse. Afterward the father was known as Worm.

Sioux and Osage women traditionally retained their own names after marriage.

My indatsay John calls me Eshta Toto (Lakota for Blue Eyes) and says we are Bear clan, descendants of Mahto Tatonka (Bull Bear) of the Cut Off band (Kiyuska).

At the county office I stare at the marriage forms and feel happy to share my clan with Beloved. Relatives in Arkansas, California, Oklahoma and South Dakota have warmly welcomed him into the fold.

And after many decades I am comfortable in my skin.

So with the swipe of my pen I unite my name with his.

6 November Blog for National Native American Heritage Month
Photo of Osage woman from the Library of Congress


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.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, Indian, Lakota, native american, native press, Native Science, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to It’s in the name

  1. Thanks for sharing so eloquently such a personal, moving moment! May many blessings follow.


  2. Conrad Ramirez says:

    Well done..sharing a name instead of changing names ,,i like it.


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