Monday, March 30, 2015

What's in a name - Volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest

Mt. Rainier
A controversy that has swirled, mist-like, about the peaks and valleys from Oregon to Alaska is that of the names of the great mountains that stand like guardian angels over the forests and fields of the Pacific Northwest. Christened with the names of admirals, presidents, and close friends by European explorers, there have always been a few who have argued that these mountains should instead be referred to by their original monikers given to them by the local tribes that inhabited the region before the pioneers.

On the surface, this appears a simple, worthy cause, but as with many controversies, its roots are far more complex than is immediately evident. One problem, for example, is that Mt. Rainier has been called Mt. Rainier for so long that in our heads this name is associated with all the qualities that make the mountain so wonderful, and not to the British admiral the name belonged to so long ago. Rainier now means, for all intents and purposes, broad, flower-filled meadows meeting eternal glacial ice; a great white tower visible above lesser peaks and low clouds throughout the region.

 In the same way, the name Mt. St. Helens is associated with the fire and ash rocketed from it nearly
Mt. St. Helens
forty years ago, and the rebirth of the desolate lands about it. Mt. Hood actually looks like a hood, and the name Glacier Peak is associated with the remote wilderness that surrounds it. Mt. Baker stands as the ambassador between sea and peaks, Mt. Adams is associated with the gentle meadows that surround its motherly figure. Mt. Garibaldi is the herald of the frozen lands of the B.C. coast range, and Mt. McKinley is the crowning king of the continent. These names are spoken with as much fondness and familiarity as the Indians had for their own names centuries before.

Aside from the fact that the current names have been established in the public mind, there is another far more fundamental problem that hinders reverting mountain names to their first nation’s origins. There were so many first nations, and so many languages, each with its own monikers for the patriarchal giants that towered overhead, that choosing among Indian names could be equally controversial. Mt. St. Helens’ Indian names include Loowit (“Keeper of the Fire”), Louwala-Clough (“smoking mountain”), Lawelatla (“one from whom smoke comes”), Tah-one-lat-clah (“fire mountain”), and Suek. While these names clearly indicate that this is indeed the most tumultuous of Northwest volcanoes, which should be chosen to represent it officially?

Mt. Baker
 One mountain whose name has been changed is McKinley, now known as Denali (The Great One), but it was also known as Doleika (The Big Mountain), and Traleika. Though the McKinley/Denali name change is perhaps the most well-known, the current naming controversy in the region is centered on Mt. Rainier. The Indian name it is most recognized as carrying is Tahoma (bigger than Mt. Baker), but it is not the one local tribal councils have decided on, which is Ti’Swaq (it touches the sky/the sky wiper).

Perhaps most importantly of all is the effect name changes would have on the Northwest’s tourism industry, which brings billions of dollars into the state, and results in thousands of jobs; people from around the world know the names St.Helens, Rainier, Baker, and Hood, but would they recognize so easily the names Louwala-Clough, Ti’Swaq, Kulshan, and Wy-east? It is a terrible risk to gamble a sustainable, profitable industry that supports widespread conservation efforts over a name.

The many names of Pacific Northwest mountains:

Mt. St. Helens
Loowit ("keeper of the fire")
Louwala-Clough ("smoking mountain")
Lawelatla ("one from whom smoke comes")
Tah-one-lat-clah ("fire mountain")
Mt. Hood
Wy-east (a mythical son of the great spirit)
Tumtum (strong heart)

Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier
Tacoma (bigger than Mt. Baker)
Ti'Swaq (it touches the sky/the sky wiper)

Mt. Olympus
El Cerro de la Santa Rosalia (named by Juan Perez, means "The Hill Of The Holy One Rosalia" - supposedly the first feature in Washington to be given a European name)

Glacier Peak
Dakobed (Great Parent)

Mt. Baker
Koma Kulshan/Kulshan (a Lummi word indicating that the summit of the peak has been damaged, or blown off by an explosion, alternatively might mean "shot at the extreme end or very point", perhaps referring to lava flowing from the mountain like blood from a wound.)
Kweq’ Smánit (white mountain)
Kollia-Kulshan (white, shining, steep mountain)
Ko-ma-el (white friar/great white watcher)
Te-kómeh (snow-capped mountain)
Puk’h’kowitz (White mountain)
La Gran Montaña del Carmelo [Mt. Carmelo] (name given by Spanish explorer Quimper, means "The Great Mountain Carmelo")

Mt. Garibali
Nch'kay ("Dirty place", or "Grimy One")
Ta Nch'qai

Mt. McKinley
Denali (The High One/The Great One)
Doleika (The Big Mountain)
Bolshaya Gora (Russian for Big Mountain)
Tenada (name by Ferdinand Von Wrangell)
Densmores Peak (named after a trapper)

Mt. Hood