from Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn by Evan S. Connell: on the difficulty of translating Native American names

Oglala is difficult to translate. There was a derogatory gesture among these people–flicking the fingers–which might be likened to throwing dirt, and long ago when they resolved to separate from their Brule relatives the Oglalas expressed their feelings with this gesture. According to Hyde, “we have always known that the name Oglala means scattered, divided.” He thinks it could have originated during the eighteenth century when the Oglalas attempted, like the Minconjoux, to raise crops and were therefore spoken of contemptuously as dust-scatterers. Which is to say, somebody was finger-flicking the Oglalas, not vice-versa. Maybe everybody did it, just as today a certain insulting gesture is commonplace. But the word might have meant wanderer, and because on one government treaty it has been spelled O’Gallalla there are those who suspect these Indians must be Irish.

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