Come, Let’s Learn a Little Lakota



Hope your day is bright and shiny.   I”ll be giving away a free ebook today to a blogger, so please do leave a comment.  Which reminds me, I am waiting to hear from my winner from two weeks ago — I”ll have to go back in the archives and post her name again.

The newest book I”m working on involves the Lakota Tribe — and so in the writing of it, I seem to have my nose in either a Lakota Grammar book or Lakota Dictionary.  And so words and phrases of the Lakota (at the turn of the century) are filling my head and I thought it might be nice to share some words and phrases.  Wanna try?

Here”s a good phrase for all of us romantics:

Cicanniga — which means “I choose thee.”

ci means I…thee…you — I hope you”ll forgive me but I don”t know very much about how one pronounces these words and phrases, so please forgive me on some of these.  So perhaps we can learn that together

“Yes,”  by the way is said differently by men than by women.  Men say “Hau” which we”ve heard over and over again in 50″s Westerns — pronounced how.  Women say “Han.”

If you”ve ever seen the movie Stolen Women, Captured Hearts — a TV movie, you”ll hear one of the Indian women say, “han.”  The picture here is of the star of that TV movie, Michael Grayeyes.

By the way, here”s a bit of trivia — did you know that the reason that the American Indian raised his hand flat in the air and said, “Hau,” was to show he had no weapon in his hand and was thus, friendly.

No is said “Eaaaa” by both men and women.  Another picture of Michael Greyeyes off to the left here.  Here are some interjections, which are always nice, I think:  “taku,” means “what;” “tukte” means which; and “toha” mean “how many.”

But for all of us romantics, this is one of my favorite phrases:  “waste kicilakapi,” which means they love one another or mutual love.

But here”s some everyday words that one might hear in a movie about the Lakota:

waste — good ;  wakan — mysterious, sacred ;  watuka — tired ;  aica — bad;  sapa — black ; was” aka — strong  canlwaste — good-hearted.

Of course off to the right here is a picture of Adam Beach in…gee, I forget the name of the movie — I believe it was a TV movie.  If you know the name of it, please do let me know.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this little brief blog into the language of the Lakota — back in Los Angeles I have a book of common phrases used in movies (given to me by Grandfather George, from a movie that he was in).  So perhaps in the future we can learn a bit more of the language.

Until then, “hau (han) kola”

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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44 thoughts on “Come, Let’s Learn a Little Lakota”

  1. WOW! Your Grandfather George worked in the movie industry.I’m sure he told you a lot of great stories.

    I found your Lakota words to be very interesting and informative. I always thought the “hau” was hi not yes. I also found it interesting that they had masculine and feminine forms of words.

  2. Great topic Karen…It reminds of trying to learn Gaelic. A language that I have never mastered.
    Good luck with your Lakota grammar studies…

  3. Love your blogs, Karen, They are always so interesting. Plus I always learn something new! Thank you.

  4. Karen I have now needed to find just a few minimal phrases in:
    Tlingit (and Alaskan tribe)

    It’s always a challenge and I don’t want to do it if I can’t do it right.
    When you say: ci means I…thee…you … I think it’s a good reminder to us of just how tricky language is. Other people trying to learn all the subtlties of English struggle so with verbs of being were, was, am, be, being, been….and yet we all use those terms correctly without giving them much thought.

  5. Michael Grayeyes cold steal me anytime, Karen (not that he’d want to keep me).

    I bought a Navajo-english dictionary once to use in research. The only trouble was, the words were listed by Navajo version, so all I could do was browse until I came across something I could use. I have heard Navajo speech. It reminded me of the soft bird and animal sounds you would hear if you were walking in the desert. Very difficult for a belgana like me to learn.
    Thanks for a very interesting blog.

  6. I love learning about those meanings. How do they say I love you? your books are so great and such a handsome, strong heros, I love!!

  7. Hi Kay – Really loved reading your blog today!! Interesting facts especially about what the hand palm up means. I guess it was left to interpretion and I always thought it meant hello.

  8. Hi Laurie!

    Well, people do say “hau and han” for hello nowadays — but it’s original meaning was and still is, “yes.” Often said, hau, hau. Yes, it is interesting about the words being feminine or masculine — reminds me somewhat of Latin — somewhat… Thanks for the post.

  9. Hi Kathleen!

    It’s the reason I hesitated to write about the Crow for so long — their language is still their first language and English their second — and I was so afraid of making a mistake. But a friend there helped me, so… : )

  10. Hi Mary!

    That’s so true. Even for people who go to a different country and know the language ahead of time — apparently, the real way to learn a language is to go there and HAVE to speak it. Guess one catches on rather quick. : )

  11. You know, Elizabeth, some of my books are like that, also. It’s in the native language and so I have to just browse. Luckily the dictionary (which I don’t have with me) is in both Lakota and English. But it’s that little catch phrase book of Grandfather George’s that’s so good — and of course I don’t have that one with me, either. Sigh…

    Interesting your comments about hearing the Navajo language spoken. Great analogy.

  12. Hi Cori!

    I used to know how to say I love you in Lakota — I learned it from an elder of the tribe and I could never find it in the dictionary (written by missionaries). I forget now — I’ll have to go back through my own books and find it again — particularly now that I’m writing about the tribe again. : )

  13. Hi Charlene!

    I know. Most people think that — it sort of is implied in the old movies of the 50’s. But it really did mean, no weapons in the hand — friendly. A form of the sign language, also. : )

  14. Hi Tanya!

    Yes, yes, and yes. Thank you. Haven’t posted that picture for a while — nice to see that picture again — I also think Michael Greyeyes is mighty handsome, also. : )

  15. All such gorgeous men!! And as always, an interesting post. I think languages are facinating and the history of words. I was always sorry I didn’t take Latin in school. I didn’t realize at the time that it was the root to a lot of our language. Thanks!

  16. I always enjoy reading Kay’s posts. I have read Soaring Eagles Embrace and it is great. I would love to entered in the drawing for another book but I don’t have an e-reader yet.

  17. I would love to learn another language beside French from school (forgot most of it)… just have not taken the steps to try… thanks for sharing Karen! 🙂

  18. Hi Catslady!

    Well, I did take Latin — two years — but there’s only a few things that I remember — on of them being the feminine or masculine or neuter use of words. Thanks for the post!

  19. Great post, Karen! I found the topic very interesting. I also learned something new! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  20. Hi Bonnie!

    No problem — I’m out of town right now and only have a few of my mass market books, but there’s no problem. I do have some with me. 🙂

  21. Hi Colleen!

    Me, too. I took Latin — a language not in use — and so I’ve forgotten almost all of it. Of course I remember “te amo” — I love you! : )

    A romantic back in high school, too.

  22. Hi Kay,
    My knowledge, such as it is, is of the Paiute language. It is similar to the Death Valley Shoshone/California Mono and Southern Paiute. Anyway, in the old language, there is no word for ‘I love you.’ That is modern.
    Mu’u is Grandmother on the Mother’s side. Hootsie is Grandmother on Father’s side. Hut-ta-me-away is very phoenetic for Where are you going? in Paiute. In Mono the same phrase is Hau-oot.
    My husband was raised with all three languages spoken in the home and he didn’t know which one was which. At one point in his growing up, he said a phrase to a friend who was Shoshone. That person fell down on the ground holding his stomach–laughing! Needless to say, husband didn’t offer any more Indian talk.
    We have street names for animals: E-sha–dog; Quing-ah—eagle;Pa-ha-vitch—bear. All Paiute.
    Reading your post today, made me stop and think of all the words we use, here, everyday. I forget we have woven them into our culture, just like all the Spanish words that we forget abut, here in Califoria.
    (and if you pick my name–I don’t have a reader). Hugs.

  23. I don’t know any Lakota, but I love Indians. You see, I am part Cherokee Indiana and was raised here in Oklahoma. My grandfather was 1/2 cherokee and I just have that heritage in me. I would love to win.


  24. I absolutely loved this post. Thank you! I love learning new languages or at least phrases. I always loved hearing “waste” (I think it was pronounced, wah-sthee)but never knew what it meant.

    Would love a copy of your book. I always love their covers.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  25. Hi Mary J!

    What an interesting post and comment — it’s interesting that I know the words for I love you in Lakota, but it’s not in the book or dictionary. Like I said, an elder of the tribe told me the words — I wonder if they are more modern. Interesting…

    Thanks for such a delightful post. It’s okay on the ereader thing — like I said I do have some mass market copies of my books here with me. : )

  26. Hi Quilt Lady!

    And there’s more words than just those. One Lakota person that I know said that he almost laughed out loud at Dances With Wolves, because the translator was a woman and she had the men speaking like women. Interesting…

  27. Hi Kay, always love your blogs. As I write Native American historicals about Apaches and Navajos, I had to do a lot of research on the language too. Like you, do not want to mispronounce something or give a wrong meaning. The Apaches did not have a word for “love”. They would say of a couple or to someone they cared about, “They have LOOKED at each other,” or “You/I have LOOKED at you.” In my latest book to come out soon, the young American girl and the Apache brave have this discussion and sparks fly when he tells her “You have looked at me.” She says, “Of course I’ve looked at you, I look at dozens of people, men included.” He says, “No, you have LOOKED at me,” and from there the story progresses. Love all you stories. Carol Ann

  28. For so long, I’ve been interested in Western Indian culture, history and stories. In fact, my husband has Choctaw blood, but unfortunately doesn’t know his generational history. Your words and meanings are very curious and enjoyable to learn – thank you for sharing. Thank you for this wonderful giveaway and the chance to win a great read.

    In Christian Joy,
    Barb Shelton

  29. Loved reading about the Lakota language. I love reading about new things, and would love to read one of your books!

  30. Hi Carol!

    Now that’s really, really interesting. I didn’t know that about the Apache — but then I haven’t written about the Apache and so don’t know the language at all. Have looked at you. I like that…

  31. Hi Barb!

    Thank you so much for coming here today and leaving a message. I, too, have Choctaw heritage — about 3 generations removed, I believe. And thanks for your compliments — be sure to check back tomorrow for the winner. 🙂

  32. I do recognize a few of the words, especially waste. Pronunciation is key and not always what it looks like. It is just about impossible to get right from the written word.
    Always enjoy your posts, Karen, and you books.

  33. I love stories & information about the native americans with the Lakota’s being one of m,y favorites. I enjoyed the words you shared with us & would love to see you give more information on them. Please enter my name in the bunch for the drawing of the free ebook.
    Happy Early Easter,
    Candace Mewborn

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