September 06, 2015

Time to rename Mt. Rainier?

After McKinley, it’s time to consider renaming RainierThe name game is serious business. One that merits serious consideration is Mount Rainier. Unlike McKinley, Rainier wasn’t a U.S. president or even an American, for that matter. Peter Rainier Jr. was a British naval officer who spent part of his military career fighting in the American Revolution for you-know-who.

Yet nearly all of Capt. George Vancouver’s imperial naming—usually after friends while he was exploring the Salish Sea in 1792—remains intact. Do these sound familiar? Peter Puget. Joseph Whidbey. Vancouver. It’s the branding equivalent of invading Japan and renaming Mount Fuji after a Navy buddy.

Landscapes are sacred, and names embroider meaning. The Northwest would be a poorer place if the Skagit or Puyallup rivers honored the first prospector to publish a map.

There are limits. No one advocates changing Vasiliki Ridge near Washington Pass simply because climber Fred Beckey wanted to name something after his girlfriend. And if we changed Seattle back to its native moniker, “Duwamps,” we’d spur a riot.

Unlike McKinley, changing Rainier’s name hasn’t generated a passionate groundswell, and some argue that “Tahoma” is only one of several authentic native names. The first step is to begin the conversation.
One Challenge to Renaming Rainier: Getting the New Name Right

By Daniel PersonIt’s unclear what political constituency would come to stick up for Admiral Peter Rainier, the British naval officer for whom our local giant mountain is named—though perhaps the people of his hometown of Sandwich would raise alarm. Rainier never visited the Pacific Northwest, he fought against American privateers during the American revolution, and his countrymen were shoed off to the cold side of the Strait of Juan De Fuca when this area became American territory.

But while Admiral Peter lacks a natural fan club, there’s reason to doubt Rainier will be scrubbed from local maps anytime soon, if for no other reason than there’s no consensus on what the mountain’s name should be changed to.

“It’s always been the tribe’s desire to get the name Tahoma recognized,” said Puyallup Tribe spokesman John Weymer. “For God’s sake, Mt. Rainier is named for a guy who’s never been to the country.”

However, Weymer acknowledges, “there are several names” for the mountain. “That is part of the issue.”

This has long been a sticking point.

“Tahoma, Tacobeh, Pooskaus, Tacoma ... There are all these different names,” Puyallup tribal member Robert Satiacum told KPLU in 2012. To pick one risks dishonoring the others.
Is it time to rename Mount Rainier to its former native name?

Comment:  For more on the subject, see Renaming Mt. Rainier.

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