The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Girl Named Sioux

          I was named "Susan" by my parents.  I spent the first twelve years of my life answering to that name, along with "Suzie" (my grandparents, primarily) and "Sue."

        When I was in 7th grade, it was an extremely formative year. 

  • I had an English teacher who taught us poetry via CSN & Y/Cat Stevens/Joni Mitchell/Paul Simon lyrics.  He also helped me deal with the fact that freedom of the press was not guaranteed to writers on the school newspaper.
  • I fell in love for the first time, as only 13-year olds can, first with a 26-year old English teacher (see the above bullet) and then, more sensibly, with a fellow seventh grade juggler who wore harness boots.
  • I developed an admiration for the Native Americans.
      I listened to JD Blackfoot, Elton John's Indian Sunset, I read and did film projects on Indians.  And I changed my name...

       Oh sure, it was just with my friends, so it didn't really "count."  They all knew me as "Sioux" throughout middle and high school.  I had one teacher who wrote in my year book, "You can't go through life with that name."  My parents thought it was just a phase.  Neither that teacher nor my parents knew me very well... 

       When I filled out the information for my high school diploma and my mom and dad saw "Sioux" on it, they had a connipition fit, insisting I request another one with my real name on it. 

         When I was in my 40's, I figured it was about time to make it official.  I had spent more time with my name as "Sioux" than "Susan."  I filled out the paperwork, paid the fee and went to court.

photo by rblachut

        It has only led to one uncomfortable moment.  While in college, my son had a girlfriend who is still a friend of his; she is Native American.  I was petrified she would discover how my first name was spelled, and would be offended. I have never asked what she thinks about it; I'm still too scared...




  1. What if she thought it was a validation of the Native Americans? Tell her your story. If she is unhappy with your decision, then listen to understand. In many cultures, religions, etc. people take on or are given secondary names. Being raised Catholic, I took on another name. Being unmarried, I get to use Ms. instead of Miss because my age is showing. My students call me Mrs. A. What's in a name? That is the story she needs to hear. I can't imagine you without such a powerful name.

  2. I know...My nervousness comes because 1) I am very fond of this young lady and 2)....I am not sure if there is anything beyond 1) except that to take on a name of a nation of people might be seen as something besides a way to honor. The whole history of the Native Americans---taking away their beautiful names and renaming them "John" or "Mary"...You're right. I should tell her why I did it, since she does know what my name is, but we've never talked about it.

  3. I love your story and your name.


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