Thinking About Names

Jamestown, Québec, Santa Fe: Three North American Beginnings

Thinking About Names

The names for peoples and places that are familiar today reflect a history of colonization.  Seventeenth-century Europeans did not come to North America to adapt to Native people's languages.  They believed they were entitled to rule and rename the continent and its peoples.

Yet, many Native place names persisted.  Europeans' minority status and their dependence on Native people's local knowledge led them to retain many existing names.  In recent times, terms for Native groups have changed once again as indigenous people have reclaimed the power to name themselves.