Special Report

Every State With a Native American Name

In 1896, the highest peak in North America was named Mount McKinley after presidential candidate William McKinley, who’d never once set foot in Alaska. There was only one problem — the mountain already had a name, Denali, given by the Athabascan people native to the area. On Aug, 30, 2015, the mountain’s name was officially changed back to Denali, in honor of the indigenous people of Alaska and of the mountain’s importance to them.

Indigenous place names often carry with them a history, tell different stories, or relate to the geographic area. 24/7 Tempo compiled every state name that has a Native American origin. While some states were given the native name for a geographic feature in the area, many states were named after the tribe who lived there. Here are the surprising stories behind 50 country names.

It should be noted that many place-name etymologies — not just those involving Native American languages — are disputed, and that widely varying spellings are sometimes given for the original forms of the names. The etymologies and spellings given here are commonly accepted, however.

Recognizing traditional names offers acknowledgement to Native American cultures and does a small part in the preservation of those cultures. Today Native Americans residing on reservations in the United States endure some of the country’s worst living conditions. Here are America’s worst counties to live in.

Click here to read about every state with a Native American name. 

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