My Indian Name

My Indian name is …. I don’t have one.
Not one of the five hundred sixty-six
US government recognized tribes
placed a name upon me in response to my letters.

Sherman Alexie did not Indian name me either,
even though we’ve met and talked about an hour.
I got this Indian name poem idea
from Sherman Alexie’s The Naming Ceremony.

I thought this poem would go back in time
to a Boy Scout campout Indian naming ceremony,
but that would not be politically or socially correct today
and you might think me racist or obtuse,
instead of a young white boy at the mercy of his times.

The problem with that scenario is I quit Scouting
at the end of the first year of Cub Scouts.
My dad helped with this decision
since he did not like spending money
on the projects our Cub Scout pack planned.

My Cub Scouts assembled transistor radios
and the radio parts had to be purchased.
Dad’s Boy Scouts went camping, fishing and hunting
and everyone already owned the equipment.

My nineteen-sixty-seven Cub Scouts
learned to survive a White Chicago Suburb.
My dad’s nineteen-twenty-four Boy Scouts
learned to thrive in central Illinois’s farm country and woodlands.

At this point in my life, I have given up on an Indian name
in case there is a misunderstanding
and Rama Bakshi, my yoga instructor,
lays some Sanskrit on me.

copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney


I have never had an “Indian name” for myself, either assigned by someone else (Boy Scout Leader or Native American) or obtained in a 1990’s New Age fervor while chasing after a woman I had a crush on.

I have never written any of the USA’s 566 recognized tribes. I would be amused to write to one of the unrecognized tribes, but, so far, am unwilling to do the homework to learn which tribes are unrecognized and if they have headquarters.

I did meet Sherman Alexie at the 1999 (or 1998?) Taos Poetry Circus and we did get to chat one-on-one for about an hour. I was a fan of his writing before that encounter and continued to be a fan since.

I was in the Cub Scouts for one year. We did do projects like assemble transistor radio, visit the city police department, and learn basic first aid. I do not remember any camping. My dad did protest about how the projects involved me spending money every week. Mom protested, too. I ended up choosing baseball over Scouting. The decision was never close.

My life would probably be more flexible if I took up yoga, but I have not lasted long any time I have given yoga a try. Since I do not have a yoga practice, I do not have a yoga instructor named Rama Bakshi (who is fictional and created to facilitate this poem).

Love & Light


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