Committee on Geographic Names Approves Three Tribal Proposals to Replace Derogatory Names
May 4, 2023
The proposals, which also include a saltwater passage and a historic ditch, will be forwarded to the Board of Natural Resources
The Washington State Committee on Geographic Names approved five names, including new names submitted by tribes for three places that previously bore a term derogatory to Native American women, during its meeting Monday morning at the Natural Resources Building.
The five names include a name for a reopened Puget Sound passage in Jefferson County, an official name for a ditch in Thurston County, and proposals from tribes for new names for a ridge in Okanogan County and lakes in Kittitas and Chelan counties. After their approval, the proposals will now be presented to the Board of Natural Resources for adoption.
The proposals from tribes came in the wake of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s orders in November 2021 to rename geographic features throughout the country that have derogatory names.
The 5-acre lake west of Lake Wenatchee would be named Masawii Lake, a name proposed by a Wenatchi elder and submitted by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
The passage between Marrowstone Island and Indian Island would be named Passage Through, the translation of the Clallam word “Scɬəqʷ.” This is a traditional place name for the passage, which was a significant travel route for S’Klallam and Chemacum peoples in the 18th and 19th centuries before being blocked by a causeway for approximately 100 years. The passage was reopened in 2019, reconnecting Kilisut Harbor with Oak Bay to its south.
The nine-acre lake north of Cle Elum would be named Nosh Nosh Wahtum. The name, proposed by the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, translates to “Salamander Lake.”
The 2-mile-long ridge about 8 miles west of Pateros would be named Swaram Creek Ridge after the creek that runs below it. The creek previously bore the same derogatory name, but the Board of Natural Resources approved the change of its name in 2018. The name was proposed by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, coming from a Methow tribal elder. Staff will also submit the name Mokheil, a traditional name for this landform proposed by the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, to the federal geographic naming database as an alternate name for the ridge.
A ditch in Thurston County south of Tumwater would be named Hopkins Ditch, a name it has unofficially borne since 1902. The manmade improvement, which dates back to at least 1878, serves 143 property owners and drains into Salmon Creek.
Once the Committee approves proposals that are up for final consideration, it forwards its recommendations to the Board of Natural Resources, acting as the Washington State Board on Geographic Names. If the board approves these recommendations, the approved names are added to the Washington Administrative Code and the Board passes them along to the United States Board on Geographic Names for federal review.
Detailed information on all initial and final proposals, including maps, historical information, and supporting documentation can be found on the Board of Natural Resources page under the About tab on the DNR website. Information on the policies and procedures of the Committee can be found in the same location.
About the Washington State Committee on Geographic Names
The Committee, which meets at least twice annually, assists the Board of Natural Resources in approving official names for Washington state geographic features. It is made up of a representative of the Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, a representative of the State Librarian, the director of the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, a representative of Washington state tribes, and three members of the public.