What Is in a Name?


Often I hear the question, “Are you gonna have more kids?” There is no simple answer to this while in college. Some argue that no time is the right time and others tell me to wait until I can give more attention to a baby. Honestly, I lean more towards the inevitability that I will always be busy, and so why not have another? Logic gravitates me towards the fact that Earth is over populated with humans…such an inconvenient truth for a young burgeoning family. I must also face realities like the fact that lately all of my jobs are seasonal, and that the chance of having another set of twins rises after you’ve already had a pair. But would I chance it? As sure as I chance triggering my predisposition to diabetes by having a latte each day!

I have always pictured myself with a large, loving, connected family where the kids are my own. Like any girl (if I may be so bold), I have a library of baby names in the vault! When opened (i.e. when I’m pregnant), this library leads me to identify the souls I carried/will carry. At least that’s how I felt in naming my daughter, Sinopah. I have been told by my elders that traditional names are how our ancestors watch over us. Without that fundamental language connection, assimilation has won. When I was pregnant I didn’t know I was expecting twins until a couple days before I went in for my first sonogram. I had already at that point felt this name, Sinopah, had a growing body to match. I’m not kidding, I dreamt it. But I also felt that there was something more. I proceeded to ask my honey what he would do if it was twins. His reply was that he gets to name one! That always makes me laugh, because so early on I wasn’t telling anyone this name I had. My dream turned out to be true. Then again, around 19 weeks I dreamt of playing with a little girl and a little boy, eerie right? Again, I told my honey. This time he whooped and hollered in the sonogram room because he was having a son. Men and their sons. Haha! Am I right? My son was much harder to name, and to be honest he is the most challenging of the two. Probably because he is my own dose of karma!

Now in my humble opinion, I think it is because my son does not hold any kind of traditional name, Blackfeet or Makah, as to why he does not enjoy the powwow circle or being on the floor when we go home to Neah Bay on the Makah reservation. He loves the music and is so proud to watch his sissy dance. My boy drums me songs on our couch, floor, table, and car. He likes to hear his dad’s coastal songs before he sleeps, but he will not dance. I also have a hard time creating a template design for his regalia. For these reasons, I don’t think I will have another child until I give my son his recognition. That is what is in a name—familiarity. Familiarity with our teachings, with our people, with our places, and with our own selves.

Celina Gray (Blackfeet and Little Shell Chippewa) is a student at Salish Kootenai College and the mother of twins.

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