The tallest mountain in North America is now known by its native name, but Southwest Washington’s famous volcano likely will continue to be named for an obscure British diplomat who never saw it.
On Sunday, President Obama announced that Mount McKinley in Alaska will be called Denali, its original Athabaskan name. More than a century ago, Denali was named to honor President William McKinley, who never set foot in Alaska.
However, the Cowlitz Tribe isn’t pushing for Mount St. Helens to be officially known by its tribal name, Lawetlat’la (pronounced Lah-weight-LOT-la). Unlike Denali, Lawetlat’la is not a well-known name, said Dave Burlingame, the tribe’s cultural resources director.
Explorer George Vancouver named Mount St. Helens after his friend the first Baron St. Helens, Alleyne FitzHerbert (1753-1839), who never set foot in the Pacific Northwest. (He was somewhat of an adventurer, though, having accompanied Russia’s Catherine the Great on a historic trip through Ukraine in the 18th century.)
Lawetlat’la roughly translates to “the smoker,” according to documentation for the volcano’s 2013 inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. It is officially listed on the register as Lawetlat’la, with Mount St. Helens as another name.
According to that document, a popular version of the native creation myth involving Cascade volcanoes published in 1933 is among the first to make use of the name “Loo-wit” for Mount St. Helens, a shortened derivation of “Loo-wit-lat-kla,” the Puyallup Tribe’s name. Burlingame said that Klickitat tribe members call the peak “Loo-wit.”
You have free articles remaining.
Along with St. Helens keeping its moniker, neither will Mount Rainier likely get changed to Mount Tacoma or Tahoma, despite lobbying from the Tacoma city area.
A renaming such as occurred with Denali was a “once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Lou Yost, executive secretary of the U.S. Board on Geographic Name, told the McClatchy News Service.
Even if the Cowlitz tribe isn’t pushing to change the name of St. Helens, the tribe did attempt to have the glacier in Mount St. Helens’ crater named “Tulutson,” which means “ice” in the Cowlitz language.
Although the Forest Service and Washington State Board on Geographic Names accepted the name “Tulutson,” the U.S. Board of Geographic Names overturned the decision in 2006.
Scientists objected at the federal level, Burlingame said. That expanse of ice is now officially but unimaginatively called the Crater Glacier.
Burlingame called that “one of our biggest failures.”