Native Americans or the indigenous Americans were the inhabitants of America before the European settlers arrived in the 15th century. They were divided into various tribes and clans, each with its own culture, language, and naming traditions (1). Some natives adopted European surnames, while many retained their traditional first names and surnames.
There was no single pattern of naming in tribes. Several traditional names were indicative of clan, habitation, and occupation. English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish names were also gradually imbibed.
Below is a list of 80 traditional Native American last names or surnames with meanings.
Native American Surnames
Some of these names are indigenous and have roots in other cultures and nations, including those that belonged to people who settled in America over the ages.
The surname Alberty represented someone who was famous in everything. This is the Americanized spelling of the Italian last name Alberti, a family who moved to the United States in the 1920s.
The surname Alexander originated in Scotland and was initially an Anglicized version of the Scottish Gaelic name MacAlasdair. The surname traveled to America over the years with European settlers. The surname means “defender of the men” or “conqueror of enemies.”
Bernard or Bernhard is a masculine surname originating in France and West Germany. It is a combination of two elements, “bear” and “hard,” referring to someone brave or hardy. This Native American surname denotes someone as strong as a bear.
Branham is a combination of the Old English term “brom,” meaning “broom,” and “ham,” referring to “homestead” or “hamm,” meaning a “river meadow.”
This occupational surname was given to the Native Americans who worked in a cornfield.
This Native American last name is also an English family name. Deere is a variant of “dear,” meaning “precious.” The surname also has Irish roots as a variant of Dwyer.
The open creeks and prairies of Denton County were home to many native tribes. These Native Americans from Denton County adapted the surname Denton as a habitational or geographical surname.
Eubank is a topographic name of English origin. It refers to someone who lives by or near a bank or ridge of yew trees. It is a combination of the Old English words “yew” and “bank.”
The surname Gaylord means “dandy” or a high-spirited and cheerful person. The name has an English origin. A variant of the surname is Gaillard.
Hensley means “stallion” or “horse” in several Native American languages. This surname could also be a toponymic name referring to settlers from many places named Hensley in the UK.
Holt is a Proto-Germanic topographic surname referring to a small grove of trees. The name likely came to America with European settlers and later was adopted by Native Americans.
The surname Irving means “water” and comes from Scottish. It could also be a toponymic name referring to someone from any of the several places named Irving in the United States.
This Native American surname has been derived from Middle English word Kipp. It likely comes from the Old English word “Cyppe,” meaning “to swell.”
The surname Lewis is a Native American surname and means “victorious.” It likely comes from the Old German name Ludwig, meaning “famous battle.”
Maize is an occupational surname given to someone who picks maize or corn. It originates from “Maiz,” the Spanish word for maize or corn.
The Native American surname Paddock finds its roots in Middle English. It is derived from the “parrock,” meaning a small enclosure, usually for horses. It could also be a toponymic name referring to someone who lived near a paddock.
Ancient Native American Last Names
Ancient Native American surnames were quite old-fashioned and slowly went out of style. Though they had an exciting history, these surnames may be hard to find in modern times.
Ancient Native Americans were primarily hunters and used bows and arrows to hunt. This surname is given to such hunters. It is an occupational surname.
A Native American family living in or around the Black Rock area adopted the surname Blackrock.
This surname was a combination of two elements, brave and bird. It was based on the traits of a bird of prey, such as an eagle, and referred to someone with the gallant traits of the bird.
Chubbuck is the Americanized spelling of the German name “Schubach,” meaning “fur.” ’. It was probably an occupational name given to a furrier. Chubbuck is also a city in Bannock County, Idaho, and could be considered a toponymic surname.
This Native American last name was given to a family who lived in the country. The toponymic surname remained through the ages and is still common in modern times.
Filemonsen is a Scandinavian surname that means “son of Filemon.” Filemon comes from the Greek name Philemon, which means “affectionate.”
This indigenous surname has its origins in pre-Hispanic Peru. Huaman is also a variant of Guaman or Waman, and is the name of a species of hawks or falcons. The word is from the Quechua language from South America.
It is the Americanized variant of Pompei, a toponymic Italian surname referring to someone from the place called Pompei in Italy. The name Pompei likely comes from Sabellic languages and probably referred to the number five.
Summerhill is an English toponymic surname and a combination of the words “summer” and “hill.” The name likely refers to someone who lived by a hill used for summer grazing of cattle.
Many Native American surnames originated from places located close to water bodies. Swiftwater is a toponymic last name referring to a family that lived near swiftly flowing waters.
Ancient Native Americans were considered to be hunters. The surname Thunderhawk is a combination of the power of thunder along with the hard work of a hawk.
Vance is a toponymic surname of Irish and English origin. It comes from the word “fen,” meaning a “marsh.” The surname refers to someone who lives by a marshland or fen.
The surname is a combination of the words “war” and “cloud.” The name may have been titular, given as a title to Native American war chieftains.
The Native American surname has English roots and refers to a person of Welsh origin. Another origin of the name could be the surname Walsh, which comes from Old English and means “foreigner.”
The Navajo tribe of Native America inhabited the Southwestern United States. In the Navajo Nation, the surnames were descriptive names or clan names adapted to the English language.
The surname Acothley is of Native American origin and means a “cowboy.”
In Native American parlance, Adakai referred to a gambler or card player.
The surname Begay has been derived from the Navajo word “biye,” which means “his son.”
This last name has been adopted from the Navajo word “binálí,” meaning “his grandchild.” Binali is further derived from the word “análí,” referring to a “paternal grandchild.”
Bitsuie is a title derived from “bitsóí,” which means “his grandchild.” The surname is popular among Native Americans and Native Alaskans.
This Navajo surname comes from “bá,” meaning “him,” and “álílee,” meaning “magical power.” The Native tribes believed in magical powers bestowed upon some members. The name Bylilly was probably given to such people.
Cly is a Native American surname derived from the Navajo word “tlaai,” meaning “the left-handed.”
Etsitty was a Native American surname given to a pounder, such as a meat pounder. This Navajo last name means “to pound.”
Hatathli in Navajo Native American means “medicine man.” The name likely referred to a shaman.
Nakai means “someone who wanders,” and would have likely referred to hunters or gatherers within the tribe.
The meaning of Nez is “tall” or “big.” It is a common Native American Navajo last name.
The last name Peshlakai is of Native American origin and means something “shiny and silvery.”
The last name Tabaaha is of Native American origin and belongs to the Navajo clan. The word comes from “tabąąh,” meaning “shore” or “beach.” It referred to people or a clan living on the water’s edge.
This last name comes from the name of a Native American clan that spoke the Navajo language. Tsinajinnie means “black-streak clan.”
Tsosie comes from the Native American suffix “-tsʼósí,” which means “‘slender” or “slim.” It is also a Navajo last name.
This Native American surname is derived from the Navajo title “ayóí,” meaning “very” and “áníldííl,” meaning “large.”
This Navajo surname is a shortened version of “Guyuskilith,” which is derived from the word “ashkiilgaii,” meaning “white boy.”
Yazzie originated from the Indigenous American Navajo word “yázhí,” meaning “little” or “the little one.”
Apache Last Names
The Apache are Native American tribes who originally resided in the South western United States. They are culturally connected to numerous other tribes and are considered distant cousins of the Navajo.
Altaha is a Native American surname from the Apache tribe. This last name was normally borne by people who were stockmen.
Apache surname comes from the name of Apache, a famous Native American tribe. The name comes from the Native American language Zuni. It comes from the word “apacu,” meaning “Navajos.”
Chatto is a toponymic name that originates from Scotland. It likely refers to places by the name Chatto in Southern Scotland.
The last name Cosay was given to Apaches who were residents of the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
Dosela is an Apache surname common among members of the Southwest American First Nations Tribes.
This Apache surname was found amongst Native Americans who were residents of the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
Goseyun was an Apache surname common among the inhabitants of the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
It comes from Mescalero Apache or Mescalero, an Apache tribe that lived around south-central New Mexico. Women of this tribe would gather a plant called Mescal Agave while men would actively process it, giving the tribe its name.
Nosie is a Native American surname given to several tribes living in the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
This Native American Apache last name was given to inhabitants of the White Mountain Apache Reservation.
Sioux Last Names
The Sioux are a league of several tribes from America. They were predominantly divided into three tribes, Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota (2). They spoke several indigenous languages, and the Dakota language was the most common of them. The Sioux have a rich heritage and were great warriors.
This last name in Lakota means “soldier.” Historically, this name was given to men fighting in wars or on duty.
This last name of the Lakota people means “day” or “daytime.” In some groups, this is used as a first name for a girl and means “radiant.”
Anoki is a Native American last name meaning “actor.”
The name means “forest hunter,” or a “good hunter of the forests.” The name is a fusion of the Lakota words “chunwanca,” meaning “forest,” “waoka,” meaning “hunter,” and “kte,” meaning “to kill.”
This Sioux name means an “attacking hawk,” or “to hunt and chase.”
Chaska was probably derived from the Lakota word “chinksi,” meaning “son,” or the Dakota word “cinhintku” or “ciijca” also meaning “son.”
This Native American last name means “drops of dew.” This dainty name can also be used as a first name for baby girls.
This Sioux last name means having a “courageous appearance” or to “roar bravely in the face of danger.”
The Lakota last name Galilhai means “gentle” or “delicate.”
This last name of Native American origin means “mysterious voice.” In Lakota, it also means a “strong voice” or a “sacred voice.”
This Sioux Native American last name means “dark-eyed” in Lakota. The name is derived from the Lakota words “ista,” meaning “eye” and “sapa” denoting “black.”
Kadoka means “hole in the wall” and is rooted in the Sioux clan of America.
This last name comes from the Portuguese word “mato,” meaning “bush” or “scrubland.” It could be a toponymic last name for someone who lived near a bush or scrubland.
The surname comes from Lakota and means “soil,” “ground,” or “earth.”
Macawi is a Lakota surname found in several Native American tribes. The word means “coyote.”
Nahimana comes from the Dakota language and means “secret.”
Ohitekah is derived from the Lakota word “ohitika,” referring to someone bold, ferocious, and warlike.
This Native American last name means “reaching for the wind” or “every wind.”
Cherokee Last Names
The Cherokees are an indigenous group of Native Americans living in the Southeastern Woodlands of the United States. They spoke the Cherokee language, which has very few speakers today. Several Cherokee surnames originate from the Cherokee language.
A toponymic last name Ahoka means “the district.”
Awiakta in Cherokee means “eye of the deer.”
The surname likely refers to a clan within the various Native American Cherokee tribes.
The surname belonged to a group of families found in America and Canada.
Native Americans have been in America for thousands of years. Their influence can be seen in art, culture, food, and even in names and surnames. Some Native American surnames have faded away with time. However, many have traveled through the ages to remain in modern times, giving us a glimpse of the Native American culture and history.