Looking for a Native American place name for a location in Vermont
September 8, 2013 11:16 PM   Subscribe

My family and I have a chance to name a minor new road in Rutland County, Vermont. We would like to honor it with a Native American place name that is appropriate to the region. Can you help us find such a name?

This is a very short dead-end road with three houses on it. Right now all three houses carry addresses that name the main road off of which our little road is a spur. Our town requires any road with more than two houses to bear a new name of its own, and it has fallen to us to pick a brand-new name for our little spur road. The new name will feature in our house address and those of our two neighbors.

I have noticed that there aren't too many original Native American place names in the immediate area-- nearly everything seems to be of English or French origin (Rutland, Clarendon, Wallingford, Killington, Vergennes, etc.). This is true of names given to geographical features like rivers and mountains, too. In contrast, plenty of places in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have names of Native American origin (often Anglicized or Dutchicized and probably butchered to the extreme in pronunciation, but still recognizably Native Ameican). I grew up all over the northeast and am accustomed to hearing "Weehawken," "Hackensack," "Naragansett," "Quinnipiac," and so on. Given that Vermont was certainly just as inhabited by Native Americans as the rest of the northeast, it would be nice to restore to this area at least one name that gestures towards the earlier inhabitants and not so much the colonizers (which includes us).

Trouble is, I'm having a hard time finding references to original Abenaki or Iroquois names for places in the area. Just looking on Wikipedia and online, I can't find any for locations or even for geographical features. Ideally we would find a name that has some relation to our micro-location (in southern Rutland County, right to the west of the Green Mountains), and also isn't on the books yet for any other roads or places in Vermont (but already-used names are ok too). It also should be a name that is relatively spellable and fits all right on a street sign. I would love any recommendations for books or websites that go into the original Native American history of Vermont, which we might be able to mine for a relevant name. I welcome actual suggestions too, and can give more specifics about our location over MeMail if necessary.
posted by ms.codex to Society & Culture (6 answers total)
Why not reach out to some tribal groups and ask them whether it would be appropriate, and if so, how to go about choosing? Your town librarian could probably help you figure out which tribes, if any, are from your area and how to contact them.
posted by decathecting at 11:47 PM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Abenaki Nation website has information and contact information. My inclination, were I to use a name from another culture for a permanent(ish) feature, would be to reach out to that culture for guidance in finding an appropriate name.
posted by jaguar at 11:48 PM on September 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

Based on this map, I would think that Sokoki would be the group closest to your area. That might be an idea for a name if you want to honor the tribe that was living nearby.

BTW, The site that Jaguar linked to is only for the Abenaki in the NEK, not all of Vermont. There are several other tribes as well. This group is closer to your location. (See also)
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 2:29 AM on September 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also, there are plenty of Indian names in Vermont. See this, this, this, and this.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 2:43 AM on September 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

The language will be most likely Abenaki, which is spoken today by perhaps less than twenty people, but many are learning and reviving it. Maybe some of these organizations can help. Linguist Gordon Day wrote somethhing about Abenaki place names in modern New England in this collection of essays. Some of which is on google books!
posted by zaelic at 2:49 PM on September 9, 2013

Thanks for these resources, everyone. And thanks for the reminder to ask the Abenaki nation or other local tribal groups for guidance and/or their blessing-- which we will certainly do before we go ahead with this.
posted by ms.codex at 4:44 PM on September 9, 2013

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