Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name...

Did you know that North Dakota was almost named Pembina? I didn't either. Read on...
There was a great deal of objection from influential quarters, including societies interested in philological subjects, and from various parts of the Union, to calling Dakota by any other name, and particularly to adding a prefix such as "North" and "South," and the same was true at home in Dakota. Either portion of the territory would have been delighted had the other half proposed or consented to select a new name, and let but one of the states be named "Dakota." This, however, could not have been agreed upon by Dakotans at that time. The southern half claimed the name by virtue of age and long use; and the north division insisted that its grain product had given world-fame to the name "Dakota," and it would retain it if only for a valuable "trade mark" already recognized the world around.

South Dakota, in its substantial and majority opinion, believed that the name of "Pembina" should be taken by the north, and North Dakotans shared in this opinion for some years after that portion of the territory was occupied by a civilized and industrious people. The early Legislatures, in memorializing Congress for a division of the territory, usually recommended Pembina, or some other cognomen, but never North Dakota, for the name, and there was no objection by the northern members, but on the contrary the name was left to their suggestion. All believed that Pembina was as widely known as Dakota, and they knew it was a century or more the elder. Before the Territory of Dakota was organized, the "Pembina country" was the title given to all or nearly all this portion of the Northwest. The Hudson Bay Company knew it as Pembina. The Canadians had no other name for it, and the early explorers of the United States War Department used it in referring to what is now a great part of the Dakotas. Nearly every intelligent person in the United States had heard of "Pembina," and knew where the Pembina region was situated, and that it covered a large area of the wilderness of the Northwest.

Under these circumstances it is somewhat remarkable that the name was not retained for the territory or state, for "Pembina wheat, No 1, hard," would have been as euphonious as "North Dakota wheat," of the same unapproachable quality, and would have added just as much value to the land, and been a more distinctive commercial asset than "North Dakota," for when one would speak of any Dakota product it became necessary to use the right adjective to indicate in which section it was produced. The Dakota Legislature at one time organized nearly a fourth of the territory into a county and named it "Pembina," and if we have a correct understanding of the location of the Indian tribes, a very small proportion of North Dakota was ever occupied by the Dakota Indians. The Chippewas held all the territory east of James River, and a large part of that west of the James was unoccupied except that held by the Mandans, Rees, and Gros Ventres who were not Dakotas but were undoubtedly the oldest settlers. Lewis and Clark found no Dakotas or Sioux in villages above the Cheyenne, and the reader has observed that the senators and representatives who made any examination of the nomenclature of the Indians in the Northwest favored "Pembina" as the name of Dakota's north state, and Senator Burrows was so wedded to that name and had such an exalted idea of its appropriateness, that he refused to report a bill for a new territorial organization in that region with any other name than "Pembina."

Senator Dawes, of Massachusetts, in December, 1888, presented in the Senate a memorial from the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, giving reasons why the states soon to be admitted, should have more distinctive nomenclature than that furnished by the words "north," "south," "east" or "west," and to accord with the theory upon which the Government had gone theretofore, that our political divisions should not be in any way identified with personality. On this basis the society asked that "North Dakota," when admitted, be called "Pembina," and Washington Territory, "Tacoma."

Other names for South Dakota were: "Minnises Wakpa," is the Dakota language for "Missouri River"; "Tinta-Maka," "Prairie land"; "Mazatinta," or "Maatinta," the land of the priarie; "Maga-Wakan," God's country; "Magatanka," big country; "Wah-ca-tin-ta," the "Prairie flower"; "Waz-yata," means "northern"; "okali," means "south," Itokali, "southern."
From History of Dakota Territory, by George Washington Kingsbury