nintaweemaakana ‘My Cousin’

This summer, we introduced a new kinship term, nintaweemaakana ‘my cousin,’ to our Myaamia community. This word is meant to be used for the children of nisekohsa ‘my aunt (father’s sister)’ and nišihsa ‘my uncle (mother’s brother)’ regardless of their, or your, gender. In a village setting two hundred years ago, our community had a complicated system of relationships between people based on the role they played in your life. An example of this is ninkya and noohsa. These terms are similar to English in that they refer to your biological mother and father, but ninkya also refers to your mother’s sisters and noohsa to your father’s brothers. The reason for this is because of the role that they play in your life as caregivers. There are different terms we use to refer to ‘my father’s sister’ and ‘my mother’s brother.’ These are : nisekohsa ‘my father’s sister (aunt)’ and nišihsa ‘my mother’s brother (uncle).’ These terms are tied to the role they play in your life as those who help guide you and discipline you.

Today, most of our community lives in nuclear family households, and this affects the language that we use when referring to family. Many of the families who are participating in language and cultural revitalization use the terms noohsa, ninkya, nisekohsa, and nišihsa in the way we describe above. As a result, for some families there are many more fathers, mothers, and siblings than one would expect in a nuclear family. We don’t all live together in big extended kin households anymore, but through revitalization we have reawakened our use of many family kinship terms and re-engaged with some behaviors that are generations old.

Two hundred years ago, the term nintaweemaakana ‘my cousin’, may not have been used a lot in the community because more specific words were present and maybe more important.  But as our community changed, some of these specific family terms were not as useful for our ancestors in their everyday lives. One result of these changes was that the more general term for cousin began to be more commonly used. As we have worked to revitalize our use of kinship terms, families have asked for help with how to refer to the children of those they call nisekohsa ‘my father’s sister (aunt)’ and nišihsa ‘my mother’s brother (uncle).’ In response to these requests, we have started teaching the word nintaweemaakana ‘cousin (child nisekohsa ‘my father’s sister’ and nišihsa ‘my mother’s brother’).

In MyaamiaataweenkiMyaamia language,’ we use different terms when addressing our relatives and when we are talking about them to others. The form nintaweemaakana is used when talking about your cousin to others. When you want to address your cousin, you would use nintaweemaakane. The kinship chart below features the Myaamia kinship terms used to address your family members.

Family tree chart using Myaamia terms for grandparents, parents' generation, and their children. The children of nisekohse 'aunt (father's sister)' and nišihse 'uncle (mother's brother)' are featured.
Myaamia terms for grandparents, parents’ generation, and their children. The children of nisekohse ‘aunt (father’s sister)’ and nišihse ‘uncle (mother’s brother)’ are featured.

Featured Photo: The Angelo and Sippy families at the 2019 Myaamia Student graduation celebration at Miami University.

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