Indian Names

I was browsing in the electronic version of the Jesuit Relations and found these passages to support my comment about naming patterns: (1)



In this Country, there are no Names appropriated to Families, as in Europe. The Children do not bear their Father's name, and there is no name that is common to the whole Family,- each one has his own different name. Nevertheless, it is so arranged that, if possible, no Name is ever lost; on the contrary when one of the Family dies all the relatives assemble, and consult together as to which among them shall bear the name of the deceased, giving [page 165] his own to some other relative. He who takes new name also assumes the Duties connected with it, and thus he becomes Captain if the deceased had been one. This done, they dry their tears, and cease to weep for the deceased. In this manner, they place him among the number of the living, saying that he is resuscitated, and has come to life in the person of him who has received his name, and has [121 i.e. 119] rendered him immortal. Thus it happens that Captain never has any other name than that of his predecessor, as formerly in Egypt all the Kings bore the name of Ptolemy.

Therefore, as this election of the Captains, or (as the Hurons say) the resurrection of the dead, is always celebrated with pomp and splendor, when it became necessary to bring back to life the brother of this new Christian, that is, when new Captain had to be elected, all the chief men of the Country were called together; and we also were invited, as to Ceremony in which the French were greatly interested because it was question of reviving the name of Atironta, he who had formerly been the first of the Hurons to go down to Kebec, and to form friendship with the French. When the Nations were assembled, they conferred on us the honor of selecting him whom we wished to assume that name and the office of Captain. We deferred the choice to the discretion and prudence of the Relatives. "We therefore," said they, "cast our eyes on that man," pointing out Jean Baptiste to us; "and we do not wish his name [122 i.e. 120] to be any longer Aëoptahon but Atironta, since he brings him back to life."


This Election was followed by the Resurrection of those Persons of importance who had died since the last Feast; which means that, in accordance with the custom of the Country, their names were transferred to some of their relatives, so as to perpetuate their memory....

[The following references are to early contact with the Algonquins in 1642]

Father Claude Pijart also made some excursions during the Winter, to a distance of ten or twelve leagues from here, to teach some roving bands of Algonquins. Besides the children whom he sent to Heaven by means of the waters of Baptism, he Confessed some Christians, who had been instructed and baptized at Kebec and at the Three Rivers. It is a very great consolation to see poor people without a Church, without the Sacraments, without the Sacrifice, without a Preacher, without Instruction, without books, in fine, deprived of all assistance, in the midst of the forests, leading a life externally more like that of beasts than that of other Men; notwithstanding all that, maintaining themselves in the Faith, persevering in the fear of GOD and in sentiments of piety, and living in innocence....

Fathers Claude Pijart and René Menard leave us at the end of April, to return to the Nipissiriniens in their own Country, and to continue instructing them; for that Nation seems of all these Wandering Peoples, the least averse to the Faith. [page 233]

Relation de ce qvi sest passé en la Novvelle France, en lannée 1642.
[Chaps. ii - xii. Part II., completing the document.] Hierosme Lalemant; Ste. Marie aux Hurons, June 10, 1642.

The relation of 1642 in Vol. XXIII The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents
EDITED BY Reuben Gold Thwaites

(1) Suzanne Boivin Sommerville, Email 21 December 2000.