Virginia Beavert: Being Given English Names

In this video, Dr. Virginia Beavert talks about names and how names changed due to the government giving people English names.

Bio: Virginia Beavert received her Doctorate in Linguistics from the University of Oregon and teaches her native language, Ichishkin. Virginia Beavert, a member of the Yakama Nation, is a highly respected teacher and fluent speaker of her language, Yakama Sahaptin (Ichishkíin Sɨ́nwit)c. She was a key planner of the Yakama exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, and has served on numerous committees and planning councils related to the documentation and preservation of Native languages. ( She grew up learning Nez Perce, and also Klickitat, Umatilla and Yakama dialects of Sahaptin. A respected Yakama elder, she has made invaluable contributions to Confluence at the Sacajawea Park Story Circles project, and the Vancouver Land Bridge.

Transcription: So she was Hoptonix (Xapt’íniks) Sawyalilx. And I don’t know, somewhere along the way somebody gave her the name Ellen. So when she married, remarried after she divorced my father she married Alexander Saluskin (04:50) from Wenatchee. He was Catholic and he wanted her to carry an English name so she was Ellen Saluskin. That was his last name. Saluskin. So it’s kinda complicated you know [laughs]. That’s the way our names are. You know, our Sawyalilx name is supposed to be our basic name, but during a court case they had to give them English names so they called my grandfather, Sawyalilx, they called him Yakama George. For the court. So then half of his family were George and half Sawyalilx. [laughs] I think that happened to a lot of people. So we have a lot of George’s I’m not even related to.

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