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