Phil Bellfy,
Indians & Other Misnomers:
A Cross-Referenced Dictionary of the People, Persons & Places of Native North America

(Fulcrum, 2001)

Indians & Other Misnomers: A Cross-Referenced Dictionary of the People, Persons & Places of Native North America is a vital reference for any person seriously studying the Native Americans. The author states that it is "essentially a guide to translations of words with Native origins."

In researching this book, the author sent a survey to every Native American reservation many of Canada's 1,500 reserve properties. Although some tribes did not respond, he did include all of the North American tribes with more than 1,000 members, plus many others.

In the introduction, author Phil Bellfy shows how the whites, beginning with Columbus, "effectively erased their [Native Americans] former histories and identities, and made them appear less than human." He began the book with a quote from Columbus that reveals that although the Natives conveyed their name for their land, he renamed it and claimed it for his country. Basically, if he had acknowledged the existing name, he would not have been able to claim that he "discovered" it and he could not have claimed possession of it. By naming it, he lent credence to his assertion that it was "discovered."

The author has made it clear that this book is not all inclusive. The amount of information is far too great for any one volume. He has tried to include all states, provinces, counties and places with a population of more than 1,000 whose name can be found in translation. That is the key: the name has to be found in translation somewhere to document the translation. Therefore, some places were omitted due to the lack of documented translation.

Likewise, he has included the treaty signers whose names can be found in translation or who had aliases listed. He has also included other important Native American persons, such as writers, artists, politicians and so forth, from historic to contemporary.

The entries are easy to use and understand. The key of abbreviations and a section detailing how to "read" the entries make everything about using this book a breeze.

Indians & Other Misnomers is a major asset when you encounter a name, either in Native or English, and want to know more about the meaning and origin. Sometimes you will run across a Native American called by an English name in one book but by a Native name in another book. With this reference dictionary, you can connect the dots. That is a great help for researchers, students and avid readers.

book review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new