Maria Tallchief

Meaning: “Bitter”
Gender: Unisex
Pronunciation: mah-REE-ah, mah-RYE-uh
Origin: Hebrew, Latin
Other forms of the name: Mary, Marie, Miriam, Mariah, Marjo

Maria is probably one of the most popular names out there, it is used in so many cultures, Greek, Catalan, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Romanian, Finnish, and Portuguese just to name a few. I know you’re probably thinking “unisex?” but its true, Maria is used quite frequently as a name or middle name for a man. It is the Latin form of the Greek name Μαρια and is the Hebrew version of Mary.

Maria is the name of ten Saints, two Queens of Portugal, and one Nobel Prize Winner, Maria Goeppert-Mayer. Maria Tallchief was born Elizabeth Maria Tallchief in Fairfax, Oklahoma, in 1925. She was the first ever American and Native American prima ballerina.
Maria is part of the Osage Nation; she says, growing up she was very much a typical Indian girl, “I was a good student and fit in at Sacred Heart (Catholic school). But in many ways, I was a typical Indian girl — shy, docile, introverted. I loved being outdoors and spent most of my time wandering around my big front yard, where there was an old swing and a garden. I’d also ramble around the grounds of our summer cottage hunting for arrowheads in the grass. Finding one made me shiver with excitement. Mostly, I longed to be in the pasture, running around where the horses were…” She was the first the first American woman to dance with the Paris Opera proving the Europeans wrong that only people of European origin could be the best ballerinas. Later her husband of the time founded the New York City Ballet and she was his prima ballerina. Her sister is Marjorie Tallchief, an equally famous ballerina. Maria has one daughter named Elise Paschen who is an award-winning poet and teaches the writing program at the Art Institute of Chicago.

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