Washington wetlands are renamed to honor Black, Indigenous history

The Washington State Board of Natural Resources approved proposals to rename wetlands in Garfield, Mason, and Okanogan counties, to honor Black, Indigenous history, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources said in a news release.

“The legacy of Black homesteaders is an important aspect of Washington’s history and helped shape the state we live in today,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the elected official who oversees the WA-DNR. “I am thrilled that the contributions that Rodney White and Nathaniel Sargent made to the communities of the Kitsap Peninsula will be honored with the renaming of these features.”

The Garfield County and Okanogan County proposals came after the U.S. Department of the Interior’s orders in 2021 to rename geographic features throughout the country that have derogatory names, the release said.

On Jan. 17, the WA-DNR accepted nine tribal proposals to change the names of places in Washington State.

On Jan. 19, the WA-DNR renamed four more wetlands in Washington.

Garfield County:
  • A spring is now named South Tucannon Spring, after the nearby Tucannon River. The name comes from the word “tukanin,” which means “bread root” and is an important food source. The spring previously bore a name derogatory to Native American women, the release said.
Mason County:
  • A 10.5-acre lake, two miles north of Tahuya, is now named Nathaniel Sargent Lake, in honor of a Black man born into slavery. The man homesteaded in Seabeck and became a fixture in the community before dying in 1954. The lake had previously been renamed Grass Lake in 1990 from its original name Negro Slough, according to the release.
  • An unnamed 18-acre wetland, two miles north of Tahuya, is now named Rodney White Slough. White was born into slavery in Missouri and moved to Mason County in 1890. He homesteaded there and some of the roads he built are still in use today. After White’s death in 1913, the slough where his orchard had been was given a name that included a racial slur toward Black people, the release said.
Okanogan County:
  • A creek in Okanogan County is now named Gooseberry Creek, reflecting the plants that grow nearby. The two-mile-long stream, just outside of Aeneas, is a tributary of Frosty Creek. The creek previously bore a name derogatory to Native American women, according to the release.

The four names have been adopted into Washington Administrative Code and will be sent to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names for federal approval, the WA-DNR said.

For more information on the proposals go here.