October 4th, 2021 Last Updated on: March 2nd, 2022
The hit series “Reservation Dogs,” created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, has accomplished something few other shows have: it's managed to introduce a mainstream audience to Native American culture without leaning on reductionist stereotypes. The show's mass appeal is undeniable but it still manages to “feel Native,” and it's prompting a wave of praise from critics and fans alike. Look no further than the show's use of Native American or “NDN” slang.
Words such as “Skoden” (Meaning “Let's go then!”) should resonate with the show's legion of indigenous fans. But while these words and phrases could present stumbling blocks for many of the show's Non-Native viewers, that hasn't stopped the writers from making something unapologetically NDN. And the show is better for it.
As with most languages, slang terms are often unique to a specific generation, and in the case of Native slang, a specific reservation. The impact of slang words and phrases can tie a community together and form a part of its identity. While some words and expressions fade in time, others take on a life of their own.
Typically, slang origins can be traced back to a specific incident that yields a certain strand of colorful, informal speech. It reflects the attitudes of the people, groups, and subcultures of the community—and sometimes, the current political climate and pop culture. Languages—especially indigenous ones—are generally vibrant and expressive, which adds an extra flair to many words and phrases. The combination of cultures, current themes in the neighborhood, and lifestyles can yield some very amusing NDN slang terms.
Shows such as “Reservation Dogs” and “Rutherford Falls” along with the influence of other cultures and the internet, will likely only give these Indian slang terms and phrases new life.
Here are some NDN slang terms and definitions you may recognize, some of which you may have heard on “Reservation Dogs”:
All my relations: We are all connected (Lakota)
Auntie: May or may not be related, but respected female
Ayyyyyesss: A big sigh when something goes wrong
Apple: Red on the outside, white on the inside
Big Warrior: Taking the mantle of a warrior too seriously
Blue Bling: Turquoise jewelry
Beesh: Looking ugly
Chooch: Immature male
Cousin/Cuz: Family relation
Chun D/Chun: Cigarette
Chuppa: Chubby or fat
Coconut: Brown on the outside, white on the inside
Crusty: Looking ugly or lame
Elder: Reserved for our older respected tribal members
Err: Really gross
Eversick: Attitude or funny
FBI: Acronym for full-blooded Indian
Gah: You’re stupid
Get Ins: Hooking up
Half-off: Are you crazy? (Also, weird)
Haffer: Half-Native or Indian
Head out: Just leave
Hunta: Hurry up
Imareala: BIA card-carrying jerk that brags about having a card and is rude to others who don’t
Indian Taco: Fry bread with anything you can find in the kitchen
Kaw: Really/not even
Medicine Man/Woman: A spiritual healer, herbalist or anyone who has undergone training to be a healer. Also called an Indian (NDN) doctor.
Naaaayyy or Aaayyy: When something is funny
NDN: Abbreviation for Indian
NGE: An acronym for non-government enrolled
Ohee: So stupid, so ugly
Rezzy: Defective or broke
Rez Dog: Abandoned reservation dogs or someone that is always in the Rez.
Rez boot: Mocassins
Rezzed Out: Done
Snag: Hooking up
Shacked up: Living together
Sav: Very ghetto
Squaybe: Getting drunk
Stiff: Drinking with friends
Supden: What’s up then
Skoden: Let’s go then
Stoodis: Let’s do this
Treaty talk: White man’s lie
Uncle: May or may not be an immediate family member
Zee: When you reject someone
Zif: As if
Featured Image Credit: Jeremy Dennis of The New York Times — Devery Jacobs, D'Pharoah Woon-A-Tai, Paulina Alexis and Lane Factor, who star in “Reservation Dogs,” are photographed in New York, June 15, 2021.
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