Navajo Language Translation: The Word For Apache Is Enemy

I got into a conversation with an Apache indian today and asked him if the concept of a blood feud/vendetta existed in the Apache nation. He said it most certainly did and then went on to say, tangentially, that the Navajo word for Apache meant “enemy.” (He also said he wouldn’t dare go near a Navajo settlement.)

Do any of you Dopers speak Navajo and can you confirm this or did I misunderstand?

I’ve heard similar stories but can’t confirm it personally. Its of note though that the Navajo language is Athabascan and more similar to northern types in Canada and Alaska than it is to Southwest languages. Its thought that the group migrated south (invaded?) and was culturally different enough that its easy to see they would not be welcome the local population.

Actually, the most common claim I’ve found is that “Apache” derives from the Zuni word for “enemy,” not the Navaho one.

One example here:

This sort of thing I think is pretty common. Most groups call themselves by a name that translates as “Us” or “The People” or “The Only True Human Beings.” Their neighbors on the other hand call them “The Enemy” or “The Nose-pickers” or “The People Who Marry Their Sisters.” Early explorers often first heard the name for a group from their neighbors who had been contacted first, so that’s the name we know them by.

Similarly this claim;

“The name Sioux is a French abbreviation of the Algonquin word meaning enemy.”

For some unaccountable reason I’ve been struck by a veritable thunderbolt of inspiration to pen a few descriptive names for my brother’s dreaded in-laws.

Let me get back to ya…

The Apache were some of meanest bad asses in the Indian Nations. Long before white settlers ever appeared. The Apache were feared by most of the other tribes.

IIRC the Apache primarily lived by what they took from the other tribes. Kind of like the Vikings of the wild west plains. :wink:

Been a long time since I read about the Indian Nations. I was fascinated by them as a kid.

IIRC (and I may not) the Apache I spoke with said his tribe occasionally fought other tribes to extinction.

Both Navajo AND Apache are Athabaskan. Navajo is apparently loosely mutually intelligible with the closely related Western Apache dialects. Though they diverged culturally, the Apache and Navajo represent two branches of the same general group that migrated onto the southern plains ~1400 A.D…

Sometimes their own. The Comanche appear to have largely ousted the Apache from the plains with very heavy casualties on the Apache side. Unfortunately there is almost always another badass waiting down the line to out badass you ( as the Comanche themselves were themselves to discover in due course ).

This is apparently the case with the Wenatchi tribe, for which my city and other local features are named here in central Washington state. There was an article in the local paper a few years back explaining that the local tribe didn’t call themselves “Wenatchi” (though I’m afraid I can’t remember now their actual name). The name “Wenatchi” came from 19th-century missionaries talking to the Yakama tribe, which was (and still is) the largest tribe in the state. Instead of asking each tribe, “What do you call yourselves?”, they instead just asked the Yakama, “And who are those guys over there?”, and got an answer that was basically, “Those are the people who live where those two rivers join” (or whatever the Yakama meant precisely by “Wenatchi”).

The article likened it to a company publishing a new phone book, and sending people to your neighborhood to ask everybody, “What is your name and your phone number?”, and finding nobody home at your house, instead asks the residents of the house across the street who you are. And that person doesn’t know you, so just says “That’s the guy across the street”, and thereafter you’re listed in this phone book as “The Guy Across the Street”. Silly scenario, but pretty much what happened to our local tribe’s name.

My Linguistics professor’s specialty is the Apache language, I’ll try to remember to ask her if she knows off-hand if there’s any known evidence for this (since I assume some of her colleagues do Navajo so she may have heard).

She says that it’s certainly possible, and actually very likely that such a word that means both “enemy” and “Apache” exists, though she’s not 100% certain. She says that if it does exist, though, it’s certainly not the ONLY word, or even the most common word. In other words, it would be along the lines of a slur, if it did exist.

I wonder if that applies to the Walla Walla tribe as well.

Does anyone know who the Hekawi tribe got their name? Sometimes, referred to as the Fukawi.

Sorta like a Dakota/Lakota thing. :slight_smile:

Actually, the Hekawis are the branch of the Fukawis that settled near Bowdler, Colorado.

I’ve allways thought it must be pretty cool for everyone else to call your people the enemy.

Apparently I’m one fourteenth Fukarwi, my tribal name is Two Dogs Shagging.

I really must find out one day how they came to choose this name for me.

Thanks for checking this out.

To answer the root of the forums original question. The word for enemy in Navajo is rooted in the word for “to see” aná (ha-nnah) so no the word Apache does not mean enemy in Navajo in fact Apache is not an Athabathcan word at all. As stated earlier in the thread it is a Zuni word for enemy.

I am an expert by no means but I do seek truth and it is out there you just have to ask the right questions and dig deeper.
Any questions just ask.