While driving or hiking, I often make up stories about how the places got their names. While completely inaccurate, I entertain my mind, as I log mile after mile to my destination, with wild origin stories for fun named locations. For instance, did you know that “LaPush” was the original band name for Salt and Peppa in the early 1980’s and was named for them as homage to their roots? Or that Humptulips was named after…well, you get the point.
Actually, LaPush has its origin somewhat debated in both the local and linguistic community. Some claim that it was named by French explorers, who called it “la bouche.” The term is actually said to be pronounced similar to the Chinook word for the mouth of a river, which is where LaPush is located. This seems like a logical story, as many areas in the west have had quite a bit of influence by the French. Don’t believe me? Look at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho…
Others claim that LaPush comes from local Chinook slang. Pronounced “la pesh”, this translates to “the pole” which is said to be a term used for steering canoes in the language. While this one makes it seem like the word is local and not influenced by Europeans, the correct story isn’t known.
Now, this isn’t knowledge that everyone knows about the etymology of the Olympic Peninsula. In fact, I don’t even know it very well. Lucky for both you and me, a book has been created to cover just such a topic. I was looking at books a few weeks back and remembered that I had bought “Gods & Goblins, A Field Guide to Place Names of the Olympic National Park” (LINK: http://www.abebooks.com/9780914195009/Gods-Goblins-Field-Guide-Place-091419500X/plp) months ago. This book is amazing and I had meant to tell you all about it earlier. With illustrations, pictures and old maps, the book is amazing, plus it is an alphabetized dictionary of all names Olympic Peninsula. Being able to quickly reference how a place got its name makes answering questions or doing research that much more fun. Instead of walking along Klahhane Ridge, I will be living it knowing that one translation of this word in the local Chinook means “good times in the mountains.”
Not to sound all Reading Rainbow about this book, but you seriously need to check it out. It is by far the most convenient book on names of places for the Olympic Peninsula I have ever seen. In fact, I have nothing to gain from this except knowing I am helping fuel the desire for the masses to educate themselves on the Chinook Nation and the history of the Olympic Peninsula. It is a great way to pass time on a trip or even read before falling into a deep slumber, dreaming about the days you can be back in the wet, green rainforest.