Committee on Geographic Names Approves Tribal Proposals for Renaming Derogatory Place Names
October 27, 2022
Nine name proposals from tribes, county spelling correction were approved and sent to Board of Natural Resources.
The Washington State Committee on Geographic Names approved nine proposals to rename features bearing a derogatory term that refers to Indigenous women during its meeting Tuesday morning.
The proposals from tribes came in the wake of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s orders last year to rename geographic features throughout the country.
During the meeting, the Committee also approved a spelling correction for the name of a bay in the San Juan Islands, as well as four proposals for initial consideration in Mason, Garfield, and Okanogan counties.
PROPOSALS FROM THE CONFEDERATED TRIBES AND BANDS OF THE YAKAMA NATION
A pair of Columbia River islands in Klickitat County would be named Sq’wanana, meaning “two sitting on lap.” The name would reflect the names of the islands in the Wishxam language.
A Skamania County lake southeast of Blue Lake would be named Aalvic Wahtum, after Lucille Aalvic. Aalvic was a citizen of the Yakama Nation who lived in Stevenson after being removed from her original family home by the Army Corps of Engineers during the construction of the Bonneville Dam. Aalvic was the first officially enrolled citizen of the Yakama Nation.
A Skamania County butte would be named Pataniks Pushtye, referencing the name of Lulukash, the child of the woman for whom the nearby twin buttes are named.
A Skamania County creek along East Canyon Ridge would be named Timla Wapykt from the traditional name of the adjacent butte, Timla-Timla Pushtye, meaning “little heart mountain of that shape.”
A Skamania County stream that flows into the Little White Salmon River would be named Shluxiksikswana, meaning “the eating place,” after the name of the Klickitat village site within the drainage.
PROPOSALS FROM THE CONFEDERATED TRIBES OF THE COLVILLE RESERVATION
A peak in Columbia County would be named Wenaha Peak after the Wenaha River, which runs below. Wenaha is a Cayuse place name and the peak is in the traditional territory of the Chief Joseph Band of Nez Perce.
A peak in Okanogan County would be renamed Condon Mountain, after a well-established family in the Kartar Valley on the Colville Reservation.
A creek in Stevens County would be renamed Snqílt Creek, after the name for the area above Little Dalles to Northport where the creek is located.
PROPOSAL FROM THE QUINAULT INDIAN NATION
The derogatorily named creek in Jefferson County would be renamed Noskeliikuu, meaning “the place where the whale dropped.” The name has been used in Quinault tribal histories for at least four generations.
SAN JUAN COUNTY
Final committee approval was given to correct the spelling of Reads Bay, in San Juan County, which will be renamed Reeds Bay. The change corrects the spelling to match that used by Tacee and John P. Reed, who lived on Decatur Island in the late 1860s and were of indigenous and settler descent.
A 10.5-acre lake 2 miles north of Tahuya would be renamed Nathaniel Sargent Lake, in honor of a Black man born into slavery who homesteaded in Seabeck. The lake is currently named Grass Lake, after being renamed from Negro Slough in the 1990s.
An unnamed 18-acre swamp 2 miles north of Tahuya would be named Rodney White Slough. White, who was born into slavery in Missouri, moved to Mason County in 1890 and homesteaded there. After White’s death in 1913, the slough where his orchard had been was given a name with a racial slur which was derogatory toward Black people.
The naming history of the two Mason County features is complex because of the multiple prior changes to the names of the features involved. Current efforts are intended to appropriately commemorate the history of early settlement in the area.
A spring in Garfield County would be renamed South Tucannon Spring as part of the state and federal effort to remove derogatory placenames relating to indigenous women. The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation proposed renaming this feature “Tucannon Spring,” to which the federal committee added “South” to clarify the distinction with an existing “Tucannon Spring.” This proposal would reconcile state and federal records.
A creek in Okanogan County would be named “Gooseberry Creek.” The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation had proposed naming the creek “West Fork Frosty Creek,” for which the federal committee substituted “Gooseberry Creek.” The state committee advanced this proposal to allow for community discussion and tribal consultation.
The committee deferred consideration of two naming proposals for a passage between Marrowstone Island and Indian Island to allow additional community discussion. One proposal, Kilisut Passage, is drawn from Chinook Jargon, while a second proposal, Scɬəqʷ, the Clallam word for “a passage through,” was provided by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. 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 Committee reviews each geographic name change proposal twice, allowing for public comment and tribal consultation. Following these discussions, the Committee decides whether to recommend that the Board of Natural Resources approve a name proposal.
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.
The Committee also advanced initial proposals to rename four places: a slough and a lake in Mason County, a spring in Garfield County, and a creek in Okanogan County
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.