Days after President Barack Obama signed an executive order renaming Alaska’s Mount McKinley to its traditional Alaska Native name, “Denali,” OPB’s Think Out Loud discussed the idea of changing Mount Hood’s name to the Native American name Wy’east.
“I think Denali being renamed is an exciting opportunity,” said Judy Bluehorse Skelton, senior instructor of Indigenous Nations Studies at Portland State University.
Thinking about renaming Western mountains raises important questions, she told host Dave Miller.
“The conversation coming out of reclaiming the sacred spaces, reclaiming the native identity, reclaiming the connection to place: what do indigenous people have to teach and share with us in the 21st century?” explained Bluehorse Skelton.
Mount Hood is named for a British admiral who fought against the colonies in the Revolutionary War.
The mountain is not the only one in the Pacific Northwest that’s had its name changed. Another iconic peak, Mount Rainier, is named after a white general who never spent time in the Pacific Northwest.
In Alaska, Denali was renamed Mount McKinley in 1896 by white settlers shortly after President William McKinley was nominated for office. But locally, the name Denali, from the native Athabascan language, was the one that stuck.
That’s not the case in Oregon.
When we asked our listeners on Facebook what they thought, Paul Wagner brought up the fact that there is no popular movement to rename Mount Hood.
“When 90 percent of Oregonians say ‘Hey, I’m going skiing on Wy’east this weekend,’ we can consider this question. Which, incidentally, will never happen. Everyone in Alaska refers to McKinley as Denali making this comparison rather ridiculous, but perhaps great click-bait.”
One main issue the author of “Oregon Geographic Names,” Lewis McArthur, brought up that arises in renaming Mount Hood to Wy’east is that there were a plethora of native communities on the Columbia Gorge — all with different languages — which may not have referred to the mountain as Wy’east.
Facebook commenter Pam Bolton raised a related issue:
“If Hood becomes Wy’East, then Mount St Helens should become Loo-wit-lat-kla, and Mount Adams should become Pahto … I remember the legends that link the three.”
The top comments with the most likes almost all agreed to changing the names of Pacific Northwest mountains to honor the legacy of Native Americans, but other commenters thought differently.
“Why, why, why not, Wy’west? It is in the West. All foolishness aside, keep it Hood for heaven sake.”
“It’s not ours to rename. Give it back to the nations the U.S. stole it from. Let their people decide what to call it.”
What do you think? Should Oregon change the name of Mount Hood to Wy’east?