'Going Geronimo' and Other Useful Native Slang Terms, Part 1

Andre Cramblit

I know there are many of you who read the wonderful words at Indian Country Today Media Network who are non-Native. I thought it would be helpful for you to have a reference for some of the inside remarks that are sometimes made. These are some definitions I have collected over the years from other emails or blogs and have added to myself. I have always said that 90% of the world’s problems are issues of communication. Let’s hope this brings a bit of clarity.

49: An informal social celebration at an Indian gathering such as a powwow.

49in': Partying at a 49.

All my relations: Signifies we are all connected, even the animals plants and nature (wind, water, rocks, etc,) from the Lakota Mitakuye Oyasin.

Apple: Red on the outside, white on the inside.

BIA:  Bureau of Indian Affairs. This is the official link between Indian Country and the federal government. Originally was in the department of war but now in the department of the interior.

Big Warrior: Someone who takes his or her role as a warrior too seriously.

Blood, Aimster: member of the American Indian Movement (AIM).

Chief: Someone who thinks he's chief but isn't. Used ironically.

Chooch: Immature male who is acting stupid.

Coconut: Brown on the outside, white on the inside.

Cosin: Related but more distant than a cousin.

Cousin:  Family relation that is close to you sometimes as close as a brother or sister, many tribes don’t have a word to divide the concept of brother/sister and cousin.

Cuz: Familiar form of cousin, sometimes reserved for more distant relations.

Dentalia, Dentalium+Shell :  used as a form of currency and used as an adornment that shows value for earings, necklaces, dresses, etc. Usually collected from the oceans of the Pacific N.W. and moved along through trade routes.

Elder: Title of respect, must be earned.

FBI: Full Blood Indian" Both parents are full blood, but do not have to be from 1 tribe.

Fry bread girl: Indian female who eats too much.

Going Geronimo: similar to going postal.

Hola: Hello, from the Lakota.

IHS: Indian Health Service. Medical care provided free or at reduced cost that is part of signed treaties.

Imareala: A BIA card carrying Native who brags about having a card and is rude to those who don't.

Indian Law 101: Indian law in reality. Comes up in the context of a non-Indian lawyer who is competent but has never been exposed to Indian weirdness and starts prattling about the Constitution where it doesn't apply.
Usage: "He was talking about Marbury v. Madison, so I had to give him Indian Law 101."

Indian Taco: 1 plate meal made from commodity foods served on fried dough, not traditional food and very unhealthy.

Medicine Man/Woman: Someone who has undergone training to be a healer, can be many types i.e. sucking doctor, herbalist, spiritual healer, empathic healer etc. or any combination. Also know as an Indian Doctor. Normally Tribally specific but utilized, acknowledged and respected by other tribes.

Andre Cramblit is a Karuk Tribal Member from the Klamath and Salmon rivers in northwest California and the Operations Director of the Northern California Indian Development Council. He lives with his wife Wendy and son Kyle in Arcata, California.

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Michael Madrid's picture
Thanks for a wonderfully written article. I picked up a few new terms like Imareala (I've encountered them here). I'd never heard Fry bread girl, but don't think I would ever use it.
Michael Madrid