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   This paper briefly discusses some place names of Nebraska which are derived, directly or indirectly, from the aboriginal inhabitants and some of doubtful origin which are supposed to be derived from them. Some of these names, either true to form or more or less mutilated, have been transferred to our own nomenclature some translated, some mistranslated, some misapplied. Some of these commemorative place names were given to the tribes by themselves, others by their white successors. Some of these names are nondescript, and I have found no satisfactory explanation for them.
   I shall not here treat in detail the place names still employed by the tribes which formerly occupied the region. It is sufficient to say that each tribe possesses an ample nomenclature, even providing for all the small streams. Their place names disclose a wealth of legendary and mythologic lore which research has scarcely touched. Moreover, they indicate a world of aboriginal economics and industries which is wholly unexplored.1
   Originally all names of persons or of places in all nations had a meaning, and generally a special fitness of application. This statement applies equally to the nomenclature of the aboriginal Americans and to that of our European races. Names are historic monuments, sometimes significant and worthy, sometimes obscure, trivial or frivolous; but they always have their story to tell.
   Washington Irving has so well expressed the poverty of our geographic nomenclature, at the same time calling

   1A paper read before the Association of American Geographers, Chicago, December 29, 1914.



attention to a comparatively little-used but wonderfully fertile resource for enriching the same, that I shall here quote his words. He says, "and here we cannot but pause to lament the stupid, commonplace, and often ribald names entailed upon the rivers and other features of the great West, by traders and settlers. As the aboriginal tribes of these magnificent regions are still in existence, the Indian names might easily be recovered; which, besides being in general more sonorous and musical, would remain mementoes of the primitive lords of the soil, of whom in a little while scarce any traces will be left. Indeed, it is to be wished that the whole of our country could be rescued, as much as possible, from the wretched nomenclature inflicted upon it, by ignorant and vulgar minds; and this might be done, in a great degree, by restoring the Indian names, wherever significant and euphonious."
   Nebraska contained, either partially or wholly within its borders, the following tribes: In the northwest were the Teton Dakota; along the lower course of the Niobrara River, on the north side, were the Ponca; in the northeast, from the Niobrara southward to the Platte River, were the Omaha; south of the Platte River, in the southeast, were the Oto; next to these were the Iowa, partly on the east side of the Missouri River in what is now the state of Iowa, and partly west of the Missouri in what is now the extreme southeast of Nebraska. South of the Oto were the Kansa, from which tribe the state of Kansas is named. The Kansa domain extended only a little way within what is now the south boundary of Nebraska. All these tribes are of the Siouan stock, hence their languages are cognate, although mutually unintelligible to each other. In the middle part of the state from north to south lay the domain of the Pawnee. This was a nation consisting of four tribes of the Caddoan stock. The structure of their language is distinctly different from that of the Sioux nation. In southwest Nebraska and eastern Colorado were the Cheyenne



and Arapaho tribes, of the great Algonquian linguistic stock.
   The tribal names of places are usually descriptive of some physical feature or commemorative of some person or event in the tribal history, or they carry the idea of some legendary or mythologic relation. Each tribe had its own nomenclature for all the region with which it was acquainted. Thus any given stream, lake or hill may have six or seven different names among as many different tribes. It may be that the same notable feature is the motive of the name by which a place is called by two or more tribes, but as the languages differ the names will be quite different in form.
   When taken serially, and considered in relation to traditions and other known facts, place names often show lines of migrations of tribes. For example, in northeast Nebraska there is a small stream marked on the maps as Iowa Creek, although when white men came into the region the Iowa were one hundred and fifty or two hundred miles farther down the Missouri River. The name of the creek is derived from that by which the Omaha call it, namely, Mahouda-waa-i-te. Mahouda is the Omaha name of the Iowa tribe, and their name of the creek means "Creek where-the-lowa-planted". According to the traditions of the Iowa, Omaha, and Ponca, these tribes, in the order named, migrated from farther up the Missouri River into the region where they were found at the advent of white men, the Iowa farthest down, and each tribe afterward occupying, successively, lower reaches of the river. Likewise there is a place on the Dismal River, in central western Nebraska, which the Omaha call Padonka-nansa-gahoethan, The (place) where-the-Padonka-built-a-fort. When white men came into the region the Comanche, or Padonka as they are called by the Omaha, were much farther south, but from several sources we know that they were formerly in the western part of the sand-hills region. This Omaha place name is corroborative of the fact.



   Names invite and reward careful study and exposition, for they are records of the past and may throw much light on the manner and means of life and cast of thought of the people, with some indication of the time of their occupancy. But if this research is to be accomplished it must be done very soon, before the death of all the old people of the tribes; for they alone can give certain information. The young people have scanty knowledge of the tribal lore, because they have generally been absent all the years of their youth, attending schools of European culture, from which they return imbued with alien interests and cares. When the old people understand my purpose in seeking such information from them they often become eagerly interested and very painstakingly impart their knowledge to me. When they are uncertain they will make no statement for fear of error. An old man of the Omaha tribe said to me: "Kageha" (friend), "I am glad to tell you all that I know, for the time will come when the Omaha will be walking altogether in the white man's way. We old people shall be gone. Unless you write down these things now, while we can tell them to you, the knowledge will be lost, and our descendants will not know what sort of people their ancestors were, how they lived, or what they accomplished."
   Among the names which have been adopted into our nomenclature I mention the following: A river in northern Nebraska retains its Dakota name, Keya Paha, which means Turtle Hill.2 Leshara is a town in Saunders county,
   2 The act of Congress March 2, 1861, for the organization of the territory of Dakota calls this stream "the Keha Paha or Turtle Hill River . . ." U. S. statutes at Large, XII, 239. An act of March 3, 1865, provided for the construction of a road "from Niobrara to the 'mouth of Turtle Hill River," and to Virginia City, "with a branch from the mouth of Turtle Hill River . . . to Omaha." Ibid., XIII, 516. As late as December 21, 1878, the Oakdale Pen and Plow calls the stream Turtle Creek. Leach, History of Antelope County, p. 87. Section 20 of the organic act for Dakota provides, "That, the river heretofare known as the 'River Aux Jacques', or 'James River', shall here



situated on the site of a former Pawnee village which was occupied by two tribes of the Pawnee nation, namely Kitkehaki and Chaui. Pita Leshara (Man Chief) was chief of the Chaui, and a part of his name has been taken for the name of the present town. Minichaduza Creek, in northern Nebraska, carries its Dakota name, which is aptly descriptive of the stream; mini is the Dakota word for water, chaduza is the word for swift.
   Nebraska, the name of the state, is an approximation to the Omaha name of its largest river, which we now call by the French translation of the Omaha name, Ni-bthaska; ni, water; bthaska, flat.
   Niobrara, the name of a river in the northern part of the state, is likewise an approximation to its Omaha name, Niubthatka, meaning spreading river. This is descriptive of its widening over sandbars in its lower course. Ni means water and bthatka, spreading. The Dakota name of this river, Mini-tanka Wakpa, carries the same idea. But the Pawnee name, Kits'kakis, means Rapid River; kitsu, water; kakis, rapid or swift. Both these names Spreading River and Rapid River or Running Water, are vividly descriptive of this stream.
   The city of Omaha bears the name of the tribe within whose former domain it is situated. Pohocco is the name of a precinct in Saunders county. It is a rather mutilated form of the Pawnee name of a prominent hill in that vicinity, on the Platte River, but outside the limits of that precinct. The Pawnee name of the hill is Pahuk, meaning headland or promontory. It is the site of the principal myth of the Pawnee mythology. I identified this site in
after be called the Dakota river." But this scintillation of fine taste was ineffectual. In derogation of the law, this river is called "James or Dakota" on a map issued from the general land office in 1912, and it is so called in the Rand & McNally Atlas. In Crane's Atlas Dakotais put first. Thus, with doubtful propriety, the awkward Indian name persisted, while there seems to have been a conspiracy to do away with the musical and otherwise appropriate Indian name of the Dakota river.--ED.



the year 1914 by taking an old man of the Pawnee tribe upon the ground and using various tests.
   Of translated names we have the following: Black Bird Creek, in Thurston county, Nebraska, was named for a chief of the Omaha tribe who died in that vicinity about the beginning of the nineteenth century. Birdwood, the name of a creek tributary to the North Platte River, is a literal translation of its Dakota name, which is Zintka-chan Wakpala. Zintka-chan is the Dakota name of the shrub Amorpha fruticosa,3 which grows abundantly along the creek. Calamus River is a translation of the Dakota name Sinkpe-ta-wote Wakpa. Wakpa is the Dakota name for river. Sinkpe-ta-wote (food of the muskrat) is the Dakota name of calamus or sweet flag. Lodge Pole Creek is a literal translation of the Dakota name, Tushu Wakpala. Long Pine Creek is a translation of either its Dakota, name, Wazi-honska Wakpala, or of its Omaha name, Mazi-snede Wachishka. Wazi is the Dakota word and mazi the Omaha word for pine; honska is the Dakota word and snede the Omaha word for long.
   Examples of what I may call mistranslated names are Pumpkinseed Creek and Red Willow Creek. Red Willow county is named from the creek. The Dakota name of Pumpkinseed Creek is Wagamun Wakpala, or Wagamun-pezhihuta Wakpala. Wagainun is the Dakota word for pumpkin and here refers to the wild pumpkin or gourd which grows there. Pezhihuta means medicine. The root of this wild gourd is used medicinally. A correct rendering of the Dakota name then would be Wild Gourd Creek, or Wild Gourd-medicine Creek. Red Willow Creek is a bungled translation of its Dakota name, which is Chanshasha Wakpala. Chan-shasha is the Dakota name of the shrub, Cornus amomum, or red dogwood, which is abundant on that stream.
   3 Commonly called indigo flower. Birdwood Creek flows into the North Platte River at a point in the northwestern part of Lincoln county directly north of the town of O'Fallon.--ED.



   The following names of towns in Nebraska are misapplied, as they belong to various tribes distant from this state: Cayuga, Chautauqua, and Tonawanda are Iroquois names from New York; Menominee, the name of an Algonquian tribe of Wisconsin; Osceola, the name of a chief of the Seminoles of Florida; Tecumseh, the name of a chief of the Shawnee of Ohio; Waco, the name of a tribe in Texas.
   Names of towns in the state commemorating Nebraska tribes by their own names for themselves are Dakota, Ogallala, Omaha, and Ponca.
   In the county names of Cheyenne, Otoe, Pawnee, and Sioux certain tribes are commemorated by our names for them, not their own names for themselves. Arikaree River,4 Loup River, Missouri River, and Republican River also commemorate tribes by white men's names for them. Loup River is so called because upon it were situated the villages of the Skidi or Wolf tribe of the Pawnee. The French explorers translated the name into French when they mapped the country, and in that form it has persisted. Missouri was the name given by the French, as they learned it from the Illinois, to a Siouan tribe on the lower course of the Missouri River. This tribe called themselves Niutatshi. But the name by which the Illinois called them was adopted by the French and by them applied also to the river. But each tribe acquainted with the river has its own name for it. For example, the Omaha call it Smoke River. This is descriptive, as will appear from the following incident: I was once riding with an Omaha who was going in his wagon toward the Missouri River. As we approached it, while yet invisible below the horizon of hills, we could see thin, trailing white clouds of fine sand, blown by the summer south wind from the bars. Pointing to the drifting sand-clouds, in appearance like wreaths of smoke,
   4 The middle fork of the Republican. It unites with the south fork in the southeastern part of Dundy county. The name of the tribe is properly spelled Arikara.--ED.



my Omaha friend said: "Now you see why we call that river Nishuda." Ni is the Omaha word for water or stream of water, shuda is the word for smoke. The Dakota name of this river, Minishoshe, is also descriptive: mini is the Dakota word for water, shoshe, muddy. The Pawnee name of this river is also descriptive, but under another aspect, as it impressed the Indian mind. The Pawnee name is Kits' Paruksti; Kits' from kitsu, water, and parukati, wonderful.
   The Republican River, in southern Nebraska, is so named from being the habitat of the Pawnee Republic or Republican Pawnee, a name applied by white men to this tribe because of their own form of government.5 They call themselves Kitkahak.
   Sioux county was so-called from the appellation given to the Sioux Indians by the French. It is a contraction of the Gallicized form of the name given to them by a tribe of their Algonquian enemies.
   Sometimes European names are mistakenly applied to places in the belief that they are Indian because they have been borne by Indians or mixed bloods. Such a name is Fontenelle. Lucien Fontenelle, a Frenchman, came to America, entered into the fur trade, and married into the Omaha tribe. Logan Fontenelle, born of this union, afterward became quite prominent in the affairs of the tribe and was well known to white people in connection with the negotiation of the Omaha tribal treaty of 1854. In consequence the name Fontanelle was given to a town founded at that time. Recently a million dollar hotel was built in the city of Omaha. The managers wished to give it an "Indian name", so they used the name of this French half-breed. A great natural park near the city of Omaha has been projected, and although the park itself is not yet
   5There has been much speculation resulting in contradictory conclusions about the origin of this name. The most plausible explanation I have been able to find, as yet, is that given by Dr. Gilmore.--ED.



established, its promoters have hastened to provide for it a "Nebraska Indian name", and have chosen that of the same French half-breed. The name of a small river in northeastern Nebraska also commemorates this French-Omaha half-breed. It is called Logan River from his given name. The Omaha tribe calls this river by a descriptive name, Ni-taspan-batê-ke; ni, the Omaha word for water; taspaé the name of Crataegus mollis, the red hawthorn; bat', the word for clump or thicket. The Omaha name, then, indicates the abundant growth of red haws along its course.
   The following list of names of towns in Nebraska I have called nondescript because I have found no satisfactory explanation of any of them. Some of them may be Indian names, but if so they are misplaced. None of them have any relation to any Indians of Nebraska. The list includes Kowanda, Monowi, Naponee, Negunda, Nantasket, Oconee, Oconto, Tekamah, Wahoo, Wauneta, Winnetoon.
   At present there is a lamentable dearth of certain and reliable information on aboriginal place names. As examples of the futility of much of the matter which is offered on this subject I quote from no less a publication than Bulletin 258 of the U. S. Geological Survey, "The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States". This publication says of the name Niobrara: "An Indian word meaning 'broad water' or 'running water.'" I have already in this paper given the true origin and etymology of the name. Bulletin 258 says of the name Wahoo, a town in Nebraska: "An Indian word said to mean a species of elm." I have heretofore mentioned this name in my list of nondescripts. There is nothing like the word in the language of any tribe in Nebraska. Of the town of Wauneta the bulletin mentioned says: "An Indian word meaning winter camp." These are flagrant examples, not of inadequacy only, but of utter futility of pretended explanation.



In the first place, the use of the expression "Indian word meaning thus and so" is just as if a Chinese geographer in writing for his people an explanation of place names in Europe should say "Tipperary, Newcastle, Stockholm, Flanders, Hamburg, Bordeaux, Athens, Odessa, Nizhni Novgorod, Przemysl, Damascus, and Jerusalem are Caucasian words with such and such meanings." To use the expression "Caucasian word" or "Caucasian language" is no more ridiculous than to speak of the "Indian language", for there are no less than two hundred Indian languages of more than fifty different linguistic stocks within the bounds of the United States.
   Here is a field of research which is most interesting in itself, and the need and usefulness of cultivating it are obvious. But the task requires serious purpose and scientific method. Work of this sort, to have any value, demands careful attention to philologic and ethnographic questions.

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