January 21, 2007

History Lesson #1: The Name

The names we have today are given by yesterday's inhabitants and explorers. In Oregon we had names like Willamette, Yaquina, Champoeg, Squaw Creek, and Rooster Rock (formerly known as Cock Rock). As 5th generation Oregonian I would scoff at newscasters and meteorologist that mispronounced the Siletz and other Native American names. Though I would be just as tongue tied in Washington.

Here in Montana the names are easier to pronounce. The history of the names seams more recent because it comes from settlers and a lot of names are from Mountain Men and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I cannot count how many Mill Creeks or Cottonwood Creeks or Rock Creeks there are. But we also have the Bozeman Pass, Beartooth Mountains, Roundup, Lennep, Glasgow and Missoula. Immigrants (like the Scots in Glasgow and the Irish in Butte) and Cow hands have shaped this lands name scape. Can you say Glasgow, Montana properly?

[just a quick quiz: do you think renaming places that were racists or sexist is respectful or does it try to rewrite history to be kinder and more tolerant?]

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