Some time ago I contemplated whether our buses—wherever they are on Coast Salish lands—would bear place names in dxʷləšucid (Lushootseed), the language of indigenous Coast Salish peoples from Nisqually all the way to Skagit. It was early winter of 2018 when I began packing for my trip to the Samoa archipelago. Something caught the corner of my eye outside the faculty offices of the UW Anthropology department: the Burke Waterlines Map. I perused the map, pinned to the bulletin board unfolded, and, curious as to where the Lushootseed place names belonged on the map, began to piece together village by village, water site to water site, into my head already deeply colonized by the more familiar English place names I was taught to know, love and sometimes hate.
What if public transportation can bear these place names?
Fast forward another nine months to the first ever University of Washington Southern Lushootseed course. For context, there are no first speakers of Lushootseed language. Although this happened very recently, scholars and linguists—such as Arthur Ballard, Thom Hess, Vi Hilbert, and many others—began documenting and preserving the language several generations ago. Now, efforts to revitalize the language (i.e. bring Lushootseed back to a living state) are well underway, including the language courses Ms. Tami Hohn (Puyallup) teaches at the University of Washington.
These edited photographs reflect a combination of my confidence in Southern Lushootseed, knowledge of the region’s public transportation routes, and reliable sources of place names derived from the Waterlines map or Tulalip Lushootseed’s map (for places in Snohomish County). These place names are not simply of the past. They are living memories for indigenous communities across the region. They deserve to live, just as much as our metropolitan public transportation system does.
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I am forever grateful to Ms. Tami Hohn for teaching me lifelong skills for learning dxʷləšucid.
More coming soon!