You are here: home   Issues   Town Shopping   Place names help us remember our past

Place names help us remember our past

Document Actions
The recent essay by Mary Stange suggested that Western maps are too filled with place names (like Custer’s) that Native Americans in particular find historically offensive, and that it is long past time to change those names (HCN, 2/6/06: Living with the ghosts of the Indian Wars).

But I wonder if there might not be a hidden cost to sanitizing the maps too much. Like it or not, the military conquest of the West is part of the nation’s history, and I’m not sure erasing the evidence of it from the maps is the wisest course to follow. Wouldn’t it be just another way of sanitizing American history ... which, God knows, has been sanitized enough in the history texts already? If a "Squaw River" or two survives somewhere in the West, might it not be wise to leave the name in place?

Maybe leaving some reminders on the maps will keep alive in coming generations some sense of how it once was, what the struggle to end it cost, and how much things have changed. Perhaps when a new generation of young people comes across such names, it will prompt them to ask what the names mean and how it could have happened. Or so we can hope.

Ms. Stange’s essay was an interesting one and got me thinking about names upon the land in ways I hadn’t before.

Robert A. Becker Ogden, Utah

Email Newsletter

The West in your Inbox

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Follow our RSS feeds!
  1. Idaho’s sewer system is the Snake River | As Big Ag flourishes, this massive waterway suffer...
  2. The Latest: Wild Mexican wolf pups born in Sierra Madre | The species still struggles on both sides of the b...
  3. Recreation-related death toll soars this summer |
  4. Summer swimming in a Washington lake | A writer takes the plunge in frigid water.
  5. Colorado water users gird for first statewide plan |
  1. The death of backpacking? | Younger people don’t seem interested in this out...
  2. Idaho’s sewer system is the Snake River | As Big Ag flourishes, this massive waterway suffer...
  3. A graceful gazelle becomes a pest | Inrroducing an African gazelle called the oryx for...
  4. Illegal immigrants take jobs from Americans | A native-born New Mexico Hispanic points out that ...
  5. Plains sense | Ten years after Frank and Deborah Popper first pro...
HCN Classifieds
Subscriber Alert
© 2014 High Country News, all rights reserved. | privacy policy | terms of use | powered by Plone