Native names abide

Before white settlers came to to dzidzəlalič in 1852, before they came to əgwaliču in 1832, even before they first sighted the shores of x̌ʷəlč in 1792, the dxʷdəwʔabš were here, living at sluʔwił and šilšul, babaqʷəb and t’uʔəlalʔtxʷ, and paq’ác’ałčuʔ and səxʷt’ičib, by the lakes called c’alq’ʷadiʔ and sisałtəb and dxʷƛ’əš and x̌áx̌əʔčuʔ, and most of all x̌ačuʔthe lake — the smaller ones being fed by springs like liq’təd where the waters run red, the lake being fed by the river whose mouth was at ƛ’ax̌ʷadis, but one by one their names were replaced by the settlers, who though they named the city for siʔał and the river for the dxʷdəwʔabš nevertheless named places Pioneer Square for themselves, or Fremont for where they came from, or Brooklyn for that which they aspired to be, and while šilšul became Shilshole and liq’təd became Licton, other dxʷləšúcid names were left unwritten and hardly spoken for decades but still remembered — so let Carkeek remain Carkeek, but know that it was once and is still kʷaatəb, as Montlake is still stəx̌ʷugʷił, the Locks, which lowered x̌ačuʔ and x̌áx̌əʔčuʔ, still xʷiwálqʷ, and University Village still sluʔwił village, and celebrate that wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ now sits where Whitman and Stevens meet.


This piece (originally titled “Lushootseed names remain”) appeared as the first item in One-Sentence Stories: An Intriguing New Anthology of Stories Told in a Single Sentence, Book 2, compiled by Val Dumond in 2018. Apparently I was the first potential contributor to ask if the story could be non-fiction. There was a minimum length of 200 words — this comes in at 203.

The names are in the dxʷləšúcid or Lushootseed language, spoken by many of the Coast Salish Native American tribes in the Puget Sound region. I selected most, though not all, names by using the Burke Museum’s Waterlines Project map. They appear below, along with their translations and the current, settler-given names.

  1. dzidzəlalič — Little Crossing-Over Place — Pioneer Square
  2. əgwaliču — Extensive Sand Banks Over Which the Water Is Shallow/Big Tide/Long Run-Out — Sequalitchew/Fort Nisqually/DuPont
  3. x̌ʷəlč — Salt Water — Puget Sound
  4. dxʷdəwʔabš — People of the Inside (Elliott Bay) — Duwamish
  5. sluʔwił — Little Canoe Channel — University Village
  6. šilšul — Tucked Away Inside — Shilshole, one of two unchanged Native names within Seattle city limits
  7. babaqʷəb — Little Prairie — Belltown
  8. t’uʔəlalʔtxʷ — Herring’s House — West Seattle Industrial District
  9. paq’ác’ałčuʔ — Brush Spread on the Water — West Point
  10. səxʷt’ičib — Place Where One Wades — Lakeridge
  11. c’alq’ʷadiʔ — Blackcaps on the Sides — Magnuson Park
  12. sisałtəb — Calmed Down a Little — Haller Lake
  13. dxʷƛ’əš — translation unknown — Green Lake
  14. x̌áx̌əʔčuʔ — Small Lake — Lake Union
  15. x̌ačuʔ — Lake — Lake Washington
  16. liq’təd — Red Paint — Licton Springs, the other unchanged Native name within Seattle city limits
  17. ƛ’ax̌ʷadis — The Growing Place — Squawk (Squak) Slough, mouth of the Sammamish River at Kenmore
  18. siʔał — personal name — Chief Seattle (Sealth)
  19. dxʷləšúcid — Salt Water Language — Lushootseed
  20. kʷaatəb — Dropped Down — Piper’s Creek at Carkeek Park beach
  21. stəx̌ʷugʷił — Carry a Canoe — Montlake Cut
  22. xʷiwálqʷ — Lots of Water — Commodore Park (Magnolia side of Ballard Locks)
  23. wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ — Intellectual House