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Opinion
The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Columns

Other Papers Say: Rename Hood Canal landmark

By The Seattle Times
Published: May 25, 2024, 6:01am

The following editorial originally appeared in The Seattle Times:

One of the Pacific Northwest’s most striking natural features has been misidentified for more than two centuries. Hood Canal, a 60-mile-long glacier-carved channel, is no canal at all. A public campaign to give due respect to this remarkable waterway and accurately describe its geography is long overdue.

Panama. Suez. Erie. These are human-shoveled channels connecting bodies of water. Hood Canal is about the furthest thing imaginable from such an artificial construct. Here, freshwater from Olympic mountaintops clashes shoreside with saltwater that runs up to 600 feet deep. Salmon journey here to spawn, world-famous oysters dot the shorelines and octopuses inhabit a world deep under its waves.

In his journal, British Royal Navy Capt. George Vancouver, exploring these waters for his country in 1792, named it “Hood’s Channel,” for Lord Samuel Hood. But he used “canal” on his charts. And it stuck.

“Hood” — the name of a British admiral at a time American relations with that empire were less than amicable — could also be lopped off for a new title and name. (If there’s any pity for Hood, just remember he’s the same Brit immortalized with Oregon’s highest peak.)

Barbara Stark of Poulsbo recognized Vancouver’s error and proposed “Salish Fjord” as a replacement to the state’s committee on geographic names (its ice-sliced depths make it a textbook fjord). The idea failed to advance at the board’s December meeting, mainly because more outreach was needed.

The effort can only proceed following consultation with, and inspiration from, the tribes that have inhabited these shorelines for thousands of years. The Skokomish Tribe, descendants of the Twana peoples, called the canal tuwaduq sidaq — the “Twana people’s saltwater,” according to Tom Strong, the tribe’s vice chair and CEO. That’s pronounced “too-wah-duke SEE-dock.”

New names can work, and stick. An effort to encompass within a new title the saltwater in both Washington and British Columbia succeeded in 2009. The name Salish Sea sparked international collaboration between scientists, policymakers and others, uniting in the cause of the restoration and protection of shared waters over an international border.

Renaming a landmark might seem unnecessary. But the state is investing big money to restore the natural conditions that existed long before it was branded a canal. A $100 million-plus project on the Duckabush estuary, for example, will construct a 1,600-foot-long bridge that restores flow and reopens the river’s connection to nearby wetlands and floodplains. This channel needs a name to match the state’s efforts.

Hood Canal has been misidentified long enough. Time for truth in our waterways. If such an undertaking is successful, just think of the possibilities — perhaps including a long-overdue renaming effort for a certain mountain nearby.

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