Changing Mount Rainier’s name would be a tall order

Anyone in Snohomish County can recognize the importance of American Indian heritage in the names all around us. The Stillaguamish River, the Tulalip Resort, the Mukilteo ferry.

These coexist with names from people who came along much later – names such as Everett, for the teenage son of the city’s founder, and Lynnwood, from the old English for “endless traffic.”

Sometimes the names don’t coexist so harmoniously. In Alaska, the continent’s tallest peak was known for centuries as Denali before a prospector named it in 1896 for his favorite future president, William McKinley. Erasing native tradition on a whim was just something people did in 19th century America. The name stuck for the most part, except in Alaska, which changed it back to Denali 40 years ago.

Few tears were shed when President Obama signed a recent order finally erasing McKinley’s name from the mountain. But here in Washington, you couldn’t help but wonder: Could Mount Rainier be next?

Rainier is named for Joseph Rainier, the first British explorer to spot it. The name’s origin is so inconsequential that you probably didn’t notice I just made that up. It’s actually named for Peter Rainier, who fought for the Redcoats in the Revolutionary War.

Still, the name has a century more history than did McKinley, and more widespread acceptance, although some have made efforts to restore one of its native names. In our latest poll at HeraldNet.com, we asked if you would support those efforts. Seventy-six percent said no.

Rainier has been known by many names, including Tacoma, Talol and Ti’Swaq’, so it would be hard to choose one. And public acceptance is one of the criteria on which a name change would be judged, so there would be a lot of minds to change.

They might have to move mountains to make that happen.

— Doug Parry, @parryracer

For out next poll, we turn to the big screen. We’d like to know what fall movies catch your fancy.

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