'Suquamish' or 'Do ho bud': State committee reconsidering request to change name of harbor

SUQUAMISH — The Suquamish Tribe had asked the state Committee on Geographic Names to change the name of Squamish Harbor, on the west shore of Hood Canal, to Suquamish Harbor, saying the name was misspelled.

That proposal was supported by the committee and forwarded to the state Department of Natural Resources for final approval. But on Feb. 5, DNR deferred the decision after receiving a competing request from the Skokomish Nation.

The Skokomish Nation has asked that the harbor’s name be changed to Do ho bud, a Twana word. Twana is the language of the Skokomish people. The Suquamish language is Lushootseed.

The Skokomish Nation submitted maps, archive documents and historical court testimonies establishing the harbor as being in Skokomish’s historical territory.

Skokomish’s request is supported by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. In a letter of support, S’Klallam Tribe historic preservation officer Josh Wisniewski wrote that the name “Do ho bud” is consistent with the phonetic spellings of Twana place names found throughout Hood Canal, but the linguistic meaning “does not express exclusive territoriality.”

“It is well documented that historically diverse Coast Salish people used Do ho bud, including S’Klallam, Twana, Chemakum and Suquamish speaking peoples,” Wisniewski wrote. “The basis for use of this area by members of different language groups was the historic sociopolitical organization of Coast Salish societies.

“Extended bilateral kinship networks formed the basis for historic pre-contact political organization. Familial relations cut across linguistic boundaries that later were used to define tribal boundaries in a manner inconsistent with existent socio-cultural geography.”

He concluded, “The name Do ho bud reflects the diverse history of Native peoples’ usage of the area, without assigning priority of one group over another.”

The matter is on the committee’s May 3 agenda. Among the committee members: Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman, a member since October 2011. He abstained from the committee’s consideration of his Tribe’s request and will abstain from discussion of the latest request. Other members are Kyle Blum, representative for the Commissioner of Public Lands; Mary P. Schaff, State Librarian designee; Allyson Brooks, Ph.D., director of the state Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation; Grant Smith, Ph.D., of Cheney, public member; Putnam Barber, public member, of Seattle; Dean Foster, public member, of Olympia; and Caleb Maki, executive secretary of the committee.

Read the proposal and supporting documents on the DNR website.

The seven-member Committee on Geographic Names advises the Board of Natural Resources (acting as the state Board on Geographic Names), which is authorized by state law to establish the official names for the lakes, mountains, streams, places, towns, and other geographic features.

The committee meets at least twice a year. Names approved by the committee are forwarded to the board for final decision. Names approved by the board are published in the Washington Administrative Code and forwarded to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

According to the Suquamish Tribe, Suquamish Harbor was the name originally assigned by Capt. Charles Wilkes during the 1841 Wilkes Expedition. The expedition’s Lt. Augustus Case surveyed and mapped the harbor on May 25-26, 1841. He reported staying at a Suquamish village with plank longhouses in Port Ludlow and noted the presence of Suquamish people on the west side of the entrance to Hood Canal.

Dennis Lewarch, the Suquamish Tribe’s historic preservation officer, said he started researching the history of the harbor after elders came to him and expressed concern about getting the spelling of the harbor corrected. He first submitted the correction request in fall 2009. He submitted documents showing the harbor being referred to as “Suquamish” in official U.S. maps, in pilot’s logs and in sailing directions published prior to the late 1880s, when the name was first misspelled.

The Suquamish Tribe is suing the Navy, claiming its treaty rights were ignored when the Navy negotiated a settlement with the S’Klallam and Skokomish regarding the environmental impacts of the second explosives-handling wharf under construction at Naval Base Kitsap — Bangor. According to a 1985 court case, Suquamish has secondary fishing rights in Hood Canal and can fish there upon invitation by the Skokomish Nation.

Lewarch said Suquamish’s request for the name change for the harbor predates the dispute with the Navy and is not related to an assertion of rights in Hood Canal. “We’re just trying to correct a misspelling,” he said.


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