Q:

What are some common Native American last names?

A:

Quick Answer

According to the United States census in 2000, the five most common last names for citizens who identified as American Indians or Alaskan Natives were Smith, Johnson, Begay, Yazzie and Locklear. Other common names included Jones, Williams, Brown, Davis and Wilson. Historically, government officials gave many Native Americans English names. Some Native Americans still carry both English and traditional names.

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Full Answer

In the late 19th century, most Native Americans had traditional names, such as Lone Bear, Night Horse or Yellow Calf. Surnames were rarely used, and names were sometimes changed because of life events. Government officials were concerned that the lack of surnames would make it difficult to determine property ownership rights, heirs and family relationships.

Beginning around 1890, government officials gave many Native Americans on reservations English names, which were loose translations of traditional names or merely names based on the whims of the officials. They also attempted to stop traditional naming practices. Names such as William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln or George Washington were not uncommon. Students in schools were often assigned new first and last names to make them easier for teachers to remember. Today, many Native Americans use surnames given to their ancestors as well as formal names; they also often use traditional names given through traditional practices.

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