Native American Placenames of the United States
William Bright
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Buy *Native American Placenames of the United States* online

Native American Placenames of the United States
William Bright
University of Oklahoma Press
600 pages
September 2004
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Have you ever wondered what that Indian name of a certain place means or where it came from? Here is a great resource to find out. William Bright has compiled a 600-page book that gathers almost all the placenames in the United States with Indian connections. He admits that, unfortunately, he could not gather all of the names, but he does a very good job in trying to cover most of them. He admits that this is not a complete collection of names.

The book is in an A-to-Z format like a dictionary. The entries are very short and to the point, and the introduction has a good description as to how to use the book. The entries start with a head word or main entry, then give where each placename is located by state and county. Bright notes what tribe or nation and language group the name is from. There is a pronunciation guide, and if it has an alternate, that is given, too - like the two ways to say “Missouri”. After the pronunciation, an etymology is given if it is known. Some etymologies have been lost because the tribe the name is from became extinct before the meaning could be saved. Bright says this is especially true for names on the Atlantic coast. The Alaskan meanings for names are still being collected. Each entry gives a bibliographical reference as to where he found the name. At the end of the book is a more thorough bibliography.

Bright says this is the first book of its sort to try to cover all the Indian placenames in the United States. There are several that cover particular states. He tried to collect names that are from an Indian language or had an Indian connection like “Medicine Lodge” but excluded words like “Calumet”, which means in French “Indian pipe." If an Indian name has been translated from the Indian language to English, like “Deer Creek" and "Black Hills,” he accepted those into the book. He consulted many experts in Indian languages, especially native speakers if available..

Although Bright admits that the book is not complete, it is still a great resource for the study and knowledge of Indian placenames. So if you have many Indian-sounding names around you, you might be interested in checking this book out to see if they really are Native American or not.

© 2005 by Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., for

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