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Native American Slang

In my drive to document Indian pop culture and create more authentic stories, I searched for a source of Indian slang. Since I didn't find one, I asked people for their suggestions. Here's what they said:


skin—Indian. Used mostly among the young.
NDN, ndn—Indian. Used mostly among the young and on the Internet.
nish, shinob, naabe—Anishinaabe Indian.
rezzy—something unique or special to a reservation.
rezzed out—done in true Indian style. Usage: "His NDN car is really rezzed out."
deep rez—to be from deep in the reservation. Usage: "She dresses all deep rez!"
rez rocket—reservation car, usually in need of repairs.
rez dog—Indian who hangs around the reservation.
rez boots—moccasins.
all chapped—to be so rezzy that your skin is all dry and chapped.
Indian time—whenever, signifying a disregard for Anglo-style punctuality.
moccassin telegraph—informal talk or gossip.
commodity cheese—government surplus food given to Indians.
commod—short for "commodity."
blue bling—turquoise jewelry.
frog skins—money.
hella good—"hell of a good," or very good.
chebon—"man." Usage: "Whassup chebon?"
stay red—"keep it real," be true to your Indian self.
red road—a physical or mental journey based on traditional Indian culture.
hola—"hello," from the Lakota.
kaw—"really" or "not even," especially on the Mohave reservation. Usage: "I heard you were snagging at the 49 the other
      night?" "Kaw, not me!"
chooch—immature male who is acting stupid.
all johnny—the less rezzy version of calling a Navajo a Johner or Johnner.
49—an informal celebration at an Indian gathering such as a powwow.
49in'—partying at a 49.
snag—a partner for a date or a one-night stand. Also a boyfriend or girlfriend.
snaggin'—searching for a snag.
teepee creeper—a person who goes from snag to snag, who "plays the field."
fry bread girl—Indian female who eats too much.
shamed, shamed out—when you or someone from your family or social circle acts in an inappropriate way that draws
      unwanted attention to you and your relations.
red-on-red violence—Natives hating on Natives.
haffer—someone who is half native.
twink, twinki, twinkie—non-Indian who believes in New Age mysticism.
wannabe—non-Indian who wants to become an Indian.
plastic—fake, as in a fake medicine man or woman. Usage: "Don't waste your money on that plastic shaman."
Tonto—sidekick, lackey, Indian Uncle Tom.
Tepee Tom—Native American version of an Uncle Tom. Synonyms: Tonto, Fort Indian, Hang-around-the-fort Indian.
apple—red on the outside, white on the inside.
coconut—brown on the outside, white on the inside.
red nigger—someone who's too Indian to suit a non-Indian. Usage: "When a blueeyed Oglala went into a bar with his
      browneyed cousins, the bartender said, 'You can stay but your red niggers have to go outside.'"
chief—someone who thinks he's chief but isn't. Used ironically.
Imareala—a BIA card-carrying Native who brags about having a card and is rude to those who don't
big warrior—someone who takes his or her role as a warrior too seriously.
FBI—"full-blooded Indian."
Mah-zame—US Marshals, sheriffs, or cops.
NGE—"non-government enrolled." An Indian not officially a member of a federally-recognized tribe.
blood, Aimster—member of the American Indian Movement (AIM).
treaty talk—white man's lies.
suits—government agents or representatives.
feds, fibbies, Federal Bureau of Ineptitude—Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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."
Flag—Flagstaff, Arizona.

More Native slang
Racial Slur Database


ennit? enit? ednit? innit?—"isn't it?"
ey, eyy, ayy
oh ya huh
uh huh, you say
"Ima bust an arrow in his ass!"

If you have more common slang terms and interjections to suggest, or elaborations or corrections for those already listed, e-mail me.

More on Indian languages
From "Not the Indian Way" by Frank C. Miller. In the Minneapolis Star Tribune, 4/2/05:

Dan agreed to teach me about Indian ways and something of the Ojibwe language (or Anishinabe, as some prefer to call it). Our classroom was a lovingly designed "learning environment": We sat in the grass on the shores of the lake, whose breezes kept the mosquitoes at bay. As part of my faltering efforts to learn the language, I collected long lists of words.

By the second afternoon, Dan would occasionally say, "I told you that one yesterday," and I would respond that I didn't think so. But I would check my notes and discover that he was always right.

A supremely patient man, Dan eventually became visibly bored and stopped responding. For a while we watched a kingfisher dive and scoop up fish.

Finally he broke the silence: "You know, Frank, it's interesting. We have no swear words in our language." I perked up but I tried to stay low-keyed.

"No swear words?"

"Not a one. We don't take the names of our gods in vain."

"How about dirty words?"

Dan hesitated. He was probably wondering how to explain things to such a naïve questioner. Then he put it delicately: "We don't think the doings of the body are dirty, so we don't have any dirty words either."

"So what do you say when you want to insult somebody?"

"Well, we call white people 'monkeys' because they have hair on their bodies and they chatter so much."

When I laughed and said "Ouch," he chuckled but again stopped talking and watched the kingfisher. Excited because I was getting good data, I pressed on and asked about other insults.

After hesitating he explained patiently, "The worst insult is to call somebody a pig or a hog. They're greedy and that's not the Indian way."

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