Although I don’t speak Choctaw, nor do I know Choctaw grammar, I have attempted to translate some of the names in my files utilizing the 1902 version of Cyrus Byington’s Choctaw dictionary. Choctaw seems to be most similar to the Latin languages than English. Verbs indicate both subject (I, We, they, us, you) and tense (past, future, present), as well, usages that indicate near past and near future, a positive action or a negative one. Adverbs and adjectives follow the verbs and nouns. I haven’t really studied sentence structure, so I am not sure if it follows along Latin lines or not.
On the traditions of naming
Choctaw children had names of animals or events taking place in their lives. At adulthood, women were given a name, presumably as part of a ritual, and men attained a name generally from an exploit in battle. So for example, Oka Laha Homma, Marks the Water Red, may mean that the warrior killed many enemy warriors in a stream. Presumably, just as positions could be taken away, if a warrior proved unable to carry out the position, or showed signs of cowardice, so a name could change, if the act that caused the name was significant enough.
The Choctaw, like many indigenous cultures, believed names had power. It was prohibited to speak the name of the dead. It is not unreasonable to suspect that they shared the belief of spiritual names, though little has been recorded on the spiritual nature of the Choctaw tribe, most historians agreeing they seemed to not be spiritual in nature.
It is also apparent that though a warrior was known by one name, he may be called by his title, or a nickname. Thus we have Tapena Humma, Red War Club, also known as General Hummingbird, and Tunapiya Humma, Goes to War Red, also known as Capt. Hummingbird. Women too seem to have more than one name, or of referring to oneself. For example, Immayahoka, the widow of Chief Pushmataha is named as three different names in the deed in which she and her children sell her land allotment received in the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. The document refers to her as Immayhoka, She who Conquests, Jamesachiko (most likely, a reference to her father James), and Lunnabaka, one which is pierced highly, (perhaps referring to her pain as a widow?).
We know the Choctaw gave names to George Gaines, and other whites, so it would be an error to believe that those with European names, mainly mixed bloods, or those educated by the missionaries, didn’t have a Choctaw name. As with the warriors, the English name, the title they held, or their warrior name was how they identified themselves in dealing with the government. It is these names we see on treaties, and in official correspondence, but among their friends and families, they could easily have been called a Choctaw name. In many cases, we have only oral traditions that connect these names to their European counterpart.
After removal, more and more of the Choctaw converted to Christianity, and a different problem occurs. The Cooper Roll of 1855, and the Choctaw Annuity Roll of 1856 have a large number of native names, or even just first names with no surname. By 1885, we see the majority of the census contains names of European origin, and very few native names. So what happened? In some cases, the children will take the name of the father for a last name, so we may see Sally Apatombee. In other’s, the native name was shortened, or a surname was chosen, (or given by the missionaries). For example, Tunipya Humma has several children, most are seen with the last name Homma, but one, Cornelius, took the last name Jones. It is often, only from the Dawes card applications, or from testimonies friends and family made in the later part of the nineteenth century, that we are able to connect these surnames to their parent.
Additionally, while the census was recorded within the Choctaw nation (now Oklahoma) by the sheriff’s of each district, they obviously had different levels of education, so the spelling on some may be difficult to translate. Often, I believe, dialects may have also had a play. So when we look at the 1856 census, just as with the Armstrong and Cooper Rolls, done by white men, we often see spellings that are more phonetic, than accurate, and they may be difficult to translate. For that reason, it is important to look at different possible spellings, and sounds, to attempt to get the most accurate translation.
More on attempting to translate
T is an additive to some words, mainly I think between vowels, thus Tubbee, the English version from Ubi to kill is in Choctaw Tubi. Tima a common ending and Tissa both mean to give, or a giver. N may be similarly used.
Ona and Oma I think are sometimes used interchangeably in translation, except when the English translation is Homa, taken from the Choctaw word Humma or red. Ona means to go to, to reach, to arrive, or to attain (as in attaining a goal). Oma in choctaw is an additive to a word.
Both Tubbee (sometimes seen as nubbee), and Humma or Homma are titles of honor added to warrior’s names, and showed accomplishment in battle or war.
A or An means me, or my, myself
A can also mean to say or tell.
O means to be
I, or Ilo when added to a verb beginning with a vowel, means we. Ilo-apa (we eat)
Ile added to a verb beginning with a vowel, changes the verb to himself, thus Ile-apa (I eat myself)
No Choctaw words begin with a R or a D.
Cha usually connects two verbs, while Chi has multiple uses or meanings, it can mean thee, thine, Thy, Chilly, or to Cause, and can also indicate, the immediate future tense of a verb. (I think as an ending).
I have given similar words and their meaning’s to show that since the names we know are phonetically spelled, the meaning’s can deviate greatly. Because the Choctaw will add consonant sounds to make words distinctive, and the dictionary isn’t clear on all the uses, it is challenging, without understanding the use of grammar, to translate native names.
Most names seem to be verbs, or a combination of verbs, which can also mean one who does that verb, for example, ima means to give, and a giver. Or a Noun followed by an adjective. So a red war club is Tapena humma, or war club red. In some cases, the names researcher’s site is a word in itself, such as Lushommi, or Achuka. In my research, I have often discovered multiple names for the same individual, thus Achuka may be a common name, or nickname, and she likely had another formal name.
Abi, Ubi- to kill
Apa- to eat
Apata- situated on the side
Apela- to help
Tombi- ray of light, to shine (as the sun), radiant
Kachi(nasal) sign of future
Hashi the sun
Hashcha- an offense
Ona- to go to
Owa is to hung
Koni is a skunk
Kami or komi is past tense
Ala = to arrive, arrival
Amo- the one which
Aboha- house or dwelling
Abeha- those who which are in
Aba=to be high, heavenly
A=to say or tell
Maiya- to move forward
Maka- to say
Mih, Mihi, Miya- to be the same
Miha- to utter
Imaya, imaiya- to conquest, overthrow
Hoke- a final article of affirmation
Ho-a pronoun, of affirmation, several variations
Iahoya- to call, to hail
Ia- One who goes
Iahollo- beloved one, to love, lover
Ik-although, let it be
Ikhana, Ithana- to know
Ikaho- to be absent or gone, also to want
Ila-to himself or itself,
I, or Ilo, in front of verb beginning with a vowel means we
Ile in front of verb beginning with vowel changes meaning to (verb) to himself
Illi means dead, to die, death
Ima to confer, to give
Cha usually connects two verbs
Chi has multiple uses,and meanings… means thee, thy, thine…chilly..also, to cause, can indicate immediate future tense
Chaka is to comb
Pisa, one who sees, a vision
Ke- final syllable in some pronouns, adv. Meaning usually, 1st person plural
Ka- that one which
Ki-though, even, also, but, also means no (strongly)
Chamo, Champ –past tense, to be past
Chanli- one who cuts
Shana to twist, to turn,
Running- yanati, yanalli
Tanampi-to be hostile, to be at war
Opia- to be evening
Opi, hopi, oppi- to haft, to heave,
Laya- to scatter, to split
Lali- to sing, to mark, to scarify oneself
Laha- to mark , to scarify
Lek- similar to
Li or La- 1st person singular, I, I till, I while
To- past tense, remote past
Ont- to go to
Anoah is famous
Ha = H after a verb means that which, Ha can also mean after, next, or not so
An= (sometimes just A)…means my, me
Ano=the one which
O =means to be
Oma is a Part. (additive)
Ona is to go, to reach, to attain, to arrive, to come to, to repair
At- the art of
To Seek is Hoyo,
To give..atobbi, Ima, Ama, ima. imissa, issa, and more..
Naha means cut off,
Nah, a form of Na means many things, Until, Then, by means of, and, or a person or thing.
Na Homi is alcohol
No Hotini is a counter
Na Hopini a cook
Na hopoa a beast
Nahomtima (Leflore grandmother and Pushmataha’s sister, per Halbert ********different women)
Nahatima (Jack Amos’ mother)
Nah -at -ima
The one which (has)- the art –of giving?
Na – ohmi- ima
A person resembling a giver ?
Noahtimah (on armstrong rolls)
Ano- ha- ima
The one which gives
Natona…or Natoma.. (per Juzan’s name of Peggy’s mother, Pushmataha’s sister)
A person who arrives or attains ?
The one which (has)-the art –of attaining
Anon toomer (wife of Oklahoma)
An- ont- oma
The one which to go to
Oklahoma (on documents Oka la homma and Oka lek homma, succeeded Pushmataha)
Oka laha humma
As a warrior, I would think that it means to make the water run red.
Oka lek humma
Water similar red
(may be referring to his alcoholism, similar to red water)
Tappenahomma (General Hummingbird, succeeded Oklahoma)
Red war club
Tanapyahomma (Son in law of Nitakechi, known as Capt. Hummingbird)
To go to war red
Red Cedar (captain)
Chamkay (Shanke and Chamkay, nieces of Pushmataha, Chamnay, supposed wife of Pushmataha)
which is past that one
Would mean the same thing roughly
turns, or twists the one who
Pistokinay (supposed daughter of Pushmataha)
Pisa to ki nay
sees- the past-also- one who
Aiahnichi Ohoyoh (wife of Nathaniel Folsom)
Iah ne chi Ohoyo
One who goes thine woman
Illichihona (wife of Benjamin Brashears)
Illi chi ona
To die (connection of verbs) to attain
She who attains death?
Ile chi ona
Herself to cause to reach, to attain to repair
She who causes herself to attain?
Imachihona (wife of Johnson Leflore)
Ima chi ona
To give (connection of to verbs) to attain, to reach, to repair
She who gives and repairs or attains?
Miyahoka (Daughter of Shumaka/Shomaka)
Miya ho ka
To be the same that which
Or Maiya ho ka
She who moves forward.
Acheyoke (wife of Ward Leflore)
A chi oke
Myself to cause?
Abutona (wife of Apuckshunubbee)
Reside to attain, to reach
To achieve rest or one who provides rest?
To be high, to attain
To be heavenly, ? heavenly woman
Achuka- to dwell at (Michael Leflore’s wife)
Alatoma (wife of John Gardner)
Ala = to arrive, arrival
Arrival to reach, to attain
Almotubbe (father of Joseph McCurtain’s wife, Sally Almotubbee)
Amo- the one which
The one which kills
Apatombee (father of Jack Amos)
Apa tomba ubi
To eat very to kill
Situated on the side to kill
To eat radiant
Opaha (second hand man of Pushmataha, per one source)
Probaly Opaha is Apeha
Immayahoka (wife of Pushmataha)
She who conquests
Jamesachioko (another name of Immayahoka)
James achi oko
James to speak (is oko a form of Ok) or affirmation?
James thy father
Lunnabaka, Lunnagaka (another name of Immayahoka)
Lunna aba ka
Lu(nasal N) a- to perforate, pierced, perforated)
Pierced, high (to be) that one which
Nitakechi- Chief of Pushmataha district, nephew of Pushmataha
Kachi(nasal) sign of future
Supposed to mean Day prolonger, most likely name from Nita Kanichi or Day Anywhere
Haschalahurtubbi (son of Pushmataha)
Hascha lah ubi
An offense, I, Kill
Lushohomma (name Annie Roebuck gives for her mother)
Lushommi- to complete, to finish
Natastachi (supposed father of Lushohomma’s mother)
No word Nata, or Neta,
Alchookmaihomma (no idea)
To better, to improve red
Omechahoya (daughter of John Homma, Anna Roebuck)
Ohmi cha oya
Resembling (connection) ascent
Ownrakonah (wife of John Homma)
Ona kana na
To go to anyone one which
Hanchitubbe (no idea)
Haschi or Hashcha closest
The sun or radiance to kill
Offense to kill
Kanchitubbee (son of Shanke)
Anywhere to kill
Malihomma (son of Shanke)
Istanche (mother of Elsie Beams)
Is an che
Is –hard to define, is additive to words
Chi-to cause or thine