A fresh look at the place name Chicago

A fresh look at the place name Chicago

McCafferty, Michael

“Chicago” has long been recognized as an original American Indian designation applied within an area rich in a kind of garlic or onion. Chicago’s own late Virgil J. Vogel, a historian and educator, and Chicago’s own John F. Swenson, an attorney and onion specialist, did important work in the late twentieth century in narrowing down the meaning and referent of this place name and dismissing earlier incorrect etymologies and referents for it.1 Although Swenson himself made some incorrect linguistic pronouncements and mismanaged the primary Illinois language sources, he did succeed in presenting a convincing case that “Chicago” refers to Allium tricoccum, a plant known to the historical French as “ail sauvage” (literally “wild garlic”) and to speakers of modern American English as the wild leek. This article has a dual intent-to round out the study of “Chicago” by providing new, important historical linguistic information about this place name and to clean up some problems in the literature previously published on it.2

Place names created by Native Americans in the land now known as the American Midwest generally fall into three categories. A name can be a descriptive term for a river, lake, site, and so on. The name of a stream or a lake can refer to a prominent aquatic animal, spirit, or plant living in or near its waters. Or the name of a place, river, or lake can embody a tribe name or, in late historical times on rare occasions, a personal name of some well known individual, usually a native leader, who lived there. In other words, most genuine historical American Indian place-names in the mid-continent tend to be descriptive expressions, labels applied by prehistoric and early historic hunting-gathering-farming peoples specifically for practical geolocational purposes within a complex natural world. In this way their function is, for the most, part quite different from European language place names later established in the same area. The latter tend to serve other kinds of cultural needs. However, the penchant that the former have for communicating direct, meaningful, and typically very useful information, most often geophysical, spiritual, biological, or ethnonymic in nature, is their most salient characteristic. In this light, one should never underestimate their significance in indigenous societies. For instance, ammooni,3 the Miami-Illinois word for red ocher or hematite (Fe^sub 2^O^sub 3^), was the name of a very historically important Illinois River tributary known today as the Vermilion, from “vermillion,” the French translation of aramooni. The native name indicated that there was an abundance of this mineral compound along this stream. This substance was ground into powder, rendered to paste, and then used, for example, as body paint. Therefore, this river’s name served the function of defining it as a source of a very important cultural item. In Indian America examples of such vital, information-rich place names are legion.

The term that we today write “Chicago” is a French spelling that represents “sikaakwa, the word for the striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) in Miami-Illinois, an Eastern Great Lakes Algonquian language.4 (The s represents the sound written sh in English, as in “she;” the i is the sound written -ee- in English “feet” but does not have a dipthong.5) The term “sikaakwa also connoted a plant and, as Swenson has determined, it referred in this tongue to Allium tricoccum. Local proto-historic Native Americans did not create place names for the deer or the raccoon, let alone the striped skunk, since these animals inhabited nearly all the local natural resource zones. However, when it came to their fashioning place names, they considered plants to be a different matter, owing to the great natural variation in their distribution. As noted above, early American Indians commonly named bodies of water after plants that were especially prolific in their watersheds. This practice never implied that a particular eponymous plant grew everywhere along a river or a lake, but that it grew in eye-catching abundance at some point(s). Examples of this practice in the Miami-Illinois language include oonsaalamooni siipiiwi ‘bloodroot river’ (Indiana’s Salamonie River) and ahsenaamisi siipiiwi ‘maple sugar tree river’ (west-central Indiana’s Sugar Creek). This botany-based place naming practice also exists in other Algonquian languages and in other American Indian language families. Such place names were very useful in times past since they, of course, indicated where various plant resources were located. “Chicago” is a perfect example of this very practical, fundamental kind of botanically oriented name, in this case for a stream. It was a sign indicating that somewhere nearby one could find a significant patch of wild leeks. As Swenson noted, these plants could be beneficial to humans, especially as survival food.6

In the field of American Indian onomastics it is important to be able to date the creation or the earliest occurrence of a place name. Since there is no evidence either in terms of archaeology or oral history for the presence of a Miami-Illinois-speaking population in the Chicago area prior to ca. 1630, the place name “Chicago” can be positively dated only to that time. Miami-Illinois bands probably knew about the land at the southwest end of Lake Michigan and could have had this name in their place name repertoire before then, but there is no way for us to know that.

It appears that the place name “Chicago” first entered the annals of history in 1680 in a report composed by the French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. It was published in the form . (Angled brackets are used to indicate an attested historical spelling.) La Salle used this name in that year instance to refer to an area where there was a portage between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River.7 He had not actually been over this portage route at this point in his life. But he had no doubt heard about it and the name for it at least by sometime between 5 January and 1 March 1680, during his first stay in the Illinois Country.8

Then, between 6 January and 11 January 1682, on the way to his famous Mississippi voyage, La Salle actually passed through the Chicago area.9 In a report written in situ he applied the name again published in the form to the Des Plaines River.10 This designation agrees with Swenson’s claim that Chicagoland’s eponymous leeks would have grown near this particular stream.” Indeed, there are good primary-source data indicating that, until at least around the mid-1700s, the French knew the Des Plaines River by one of the words in the Miami-Illinois language for the wild leek.

The earliest Europeans in the Chicago area were an exploration team composed of Jacques Marquette, Louis Jolliet, Jacques Largillier, Pierre Moreau, Jean Tiberge, Jean Plattier, and a seventh Frenchman whose identity is unknown.12 In the late summer of 1673, while on their way from the Mississippi to Green Bay via Lake Michigan, these men passed over the Chicago portage. They were soon followed in 1675 by Father Marquette, Largillier, and Pierre Porteret, who passed over it twice that year, then by the Jesuit missionary Claude-Jean Allouez, who came through the area in 1677.” As far as anyone has determined, none of these men recorded the Miami-Illinois name for the Des Plaines River. It is not unusual, however, that they apparently failed to record a name for this riverine passage. La Salle himself was on the St. Joseph River of Lake Michigan continually for years without ever recording an Indian name for that stream. We are confident that, as far as he was concerned, the St. Joseph already had a name: “la riviere des Miamis,” the French moniker. However, La Salle did put on the map. At the same time, there is clear and conclusive evidence within the spelling itself that indicates its appearance in La Salle’s 1680 report was not the first time this place name was written down.

La Salle was responsible for bringing several important North American place names of native origin, including “Ohio,” “Wabash,” and “Milwaukee” to the attention of Europeans. Even so, he did not speak any American Indian languages and, as a result, the forms found in his cache of indigenous place names are not always clearly portrayed. Indeed, La Salle was a monolingual French explorer and soldier of fortune whose place name legacy is quite hit-and-miss. On the whole, the evidence suggests that he was generally too preoccupied with his North American dreams and schemes to do solid onomastic work. And his is only one example from among his significant but carelessly compiled inventory of native place names from the late seventeenth century that we are still cleaning up here in the twenty-first century.” However, in the case of , intimacy with the early works on the Illinois language as well as knowledge of this language allow us the requisite perspective for understanding the nature of his spelling.

The fact that La Salle’s has an instead of the i we find in is not a problem. Historic French speakers who had little or no experience with the Miami-Illinois language often heard i, which is the correct vowel sound in the Miami-Illinois place name, as the sound written e by linguists. The work of Constantin-Francois Chasseboeuf Volney, an educated French tourist who visited the United States in the late 1700s, is a readily accessible source that consistently exhibits the mishearing of e for i.15 (The e is the sound represented by ay in English “say,” although, again, the Miami-Illinois sound does not have a diphthong as does its English equivalent. In modern French e is written e(e), but French writers of La Salle’s era, as we see in his , often did not put an accent mark on this vowel.) At the same time, Henri Joutel, one of La Salle’s followers, is responsible for a spelling of this same place name in the form . Joutel’s spelling with clearly indicates a Miami-Illinois origin for the word.16

The real problem with La Salle’s is the final . This sound, written u by linguists and ou in French, does not occur at the end of nouns in Miami-Illinois, the local Algonquian language that the source noun sikuokwa comes from.17 is then an incorrect spelling for this native place name. La Salle, or the transcriber of his reports, should have written *Checagoua. In other words, the term should have an a on the end of it.

In his attempt to explain the absence of final a in , an a that should be there as he correctly concluded, Swenson thought that it was because the Frenchman had failed to hear the final a in the original Miami-Illinois term.18 This is incorrect. There is no linguistic basis for such a notion. In this particular phonological context in Miami-Illinois, that is, when the sound wa preceded by a consonant occurs at the end of a word, the final a is never dropped in the pronunciation of the term. In this specific way the historical development of Miami-Illinois resembles that of Fox, one of its closest sister languages, rather than that of Ojibwa, another of its closest sister languages. Indeed, Miami-Illinois final a in this situation was always heard and always noted by the many European recorders of the language regardless of their ethnic origins or linguistic abilities.

The lack of final a in La Salle’s does not reflect a mistake on the part of a Frenchman’s ear, but of his hand. In other words, La Salle’s final represents a common but heretofore unrecognized incorrect transliteration of what would have been written originally *Checag8 or *Chicag8. The letter 8, a digraph originally composed of a circle with a crescent on top of it but often written like the number 8, was a shorthand device used extensively, and on an every day basis, by French Jesuit missionaries in the western Great Lakes. However, Europeans in the 1600s and the 1700s did not completely understand for what the letter stood.

Here is the original problem. The Jesuits in the field used the letter 8 rather loosely. But French people with little or no experience with the region’s native languages had, based on the evidence, only a limited idea of how the Jesuits were using it, what the letter 8 could actually represent. In fact, Camille de Rochemonteix, a French Jesuit living in France, appears to have been the only French person not on assignment in the New World who knew how Jesuits there were using 8. Folks like La Salle and his French-speaking entourage in both the New World and the Old were certainly aware that 8 could stand for various related native sounds that the French language writes ou or o. But they were clearly unaware that this letter could also represent a sequence of sounds that French in no way can write ou or o. When copying original documents sent from the Illinois Country, those with no experience with native languages invariably rewrote final 8 as ou. This uninformed practice resulted in the attested disfiguration of historical native terms, including La Salle’s .

In the truly impressive and remarkably extensive Jesuit recordings of the Miami-Illinois language, the letter 8 at the beginning of a word can represent the sound w, sometimes o(o)w before a vowel, and o ~ u before a consonant. Between two vowels it stands for the sound w, sometimes o(o)w. Between consonants that are not followed by the sound w and a following vowel it stands for o(o)w ~ u(u)w. When it appears between two consonants, 8 represents the sound o(o) ~ u(u). And at the end of a word, this glyph typically represents o(o) ~ u(u). It should also be noted, in passing, that o and u are the same phoneme in Miami-Illinois. Swenson’s belief that the Illinois language at the time of the creation of the Illinois-French dictionary (commonly attributed to Father Jacques Gravier) did not have the sound o is without merit.19 The o is very common in Old Illinois, the language recorded by the earliest Jesuits among the Illinois, particularly at the end of singular verbal command forms. Therefore, Swenson’s following comment, which states that the Illinois language by the time Father Antoine-Robert Le Boullenger compiled his French-Illinois dictionary had replaced the sound u (which he writes 8) with o is also groundless. In addition, Swenson’s reference to an earlier pronunciation of 8 described by Father Sebastien Rasles, in which one did not move the lips, refers to the sound u, not to the sound that was originally at the end of our place name.20

In any event, the brief synopsis presented above shows almost all of the recognized phonological values, the possible pronunciations, of 8-and determining how to rewrite the pronunciation intended by 8 in any given word within these contexts is not a problem. As noted, all are written ou or o in French. The problem was that Jesuit missionaries also used 8 to signify wa(a), which French must write oua. This usage is readily evident, for example, on Marquette’s holograph map of the Mississippi River in his spelling for Old Ojibwa pooteewaatamii Totawatomi’ and his for Miami-Illinois waasaasi Osage.’21 Especially important for our purposes is the fact that 8 can stand for wa at the end of everyday Illinois terms, especially animal and plant words. Examples of this usage occur equally frequently in all three of the Illinois manuscript dictionaries. Any of the terms listed below that were taken from these dictionaries would have been subject to misinterpretation, that is, 8 could have been transliterated incorrectly to ou for the following words just as it was in the case of . Here [and] indicate phonetic spellings. An asterisk (*) indicates a suggested phonetic spelling. For historical authenticity, the French words appear exactly as they are written in the dictionaries.

In fact, the Illinois-French dictionary provides an explicit pronunciation guide to this kind of final 8 when, in reference to a similarly shaped term, it states, “Notes que chag8a, chag8e, chag8 se prononcent comme chac8a” (“Note that chag8a, chag8e, chag8 are pronounced like chac8a”).23 Thus, given the fact that 8 could be rewritten as oua, there loomed over uninformed and unsuspecting scribes, such as La Salle, the royal hydrographer Jean-Baptiste Louis Franquelin, whom the explorer employed, and in fact everyone else in La Salle’s linguistically challenged troupe, the possibility that they would unintentionally create ambiguous or nonsensical terms. In fact, on his first trip to the Illinois Country, La Salle did not even have anyone along who could understand Miami-Illinois. His right-hand man, Henri de Tonti, did eventually learn some, but only after he had lived among the Illinois Indians.

An excellent example of an uninformed re-transcribing of an original final 8, excellent because it is quite to the point, is the historically recorded names of two Miami-Illinois-speaking Tamaroa leaders in the late 1600s and early 1700s. These men’s personal names were the Miami-Illinois term for the striped skunk. Even though they were commonly spelled “Chicagou” ~ “Chicago” in the literature,24 these terms, which would be written phonetically as *[sikaaku] and *[sikaako] respectively, have never existed in Miami-Illinois; there is only the independent noun sikaakwa and the initial stem sikaakw-, the latter used in forming composite expressions involving the striped skunk. This understanding naturally implies that these men’s names derive from an original form written *Chicag8 that was mistakenly rewritten and .

Another good example of how 8 has been commonly misinterpreted is found in the holograph journal of Father Jacques Marquette. Here we find the term , which is his recording of the name of a famous Illinois Indian trader he met in 1675 during his winter stay at present-day Chicago.25 In this man’s name the first 8 stands predictably for the sound w, but the final 8 was intended by Marquette to represent none other than wa, since the Illinois term in question is saahsaakweehsiwa ‘copperhead’ (Agkistrodon contortrix). However, note that Marquette’s term, which was judiciously left untouched in the early Cramoisy French-only publication of the relations, the reports written in New France by the Jesuits, was transliterated at the turn of the twentieth century to .26 In this case, it was reshaped with an ending by an English speaker who had no more understanding of the letter 8 than did nearly all historic French speakers. What makes this erroneous spelling particularly troubling is the fact that, not only is the sound u (represented here by orthographic not possible at the end of a noun in Miami-Illinois, the sound sequence iu represented here by orthographic does not even exist in Miami-Illinois at the end of any word.

Father Jacques Gravier, the Jesuit priest who replaced Allouez in 1688 as missionary to the Illinois Indians and who spoke fluent Illinois, also wrote down our place name several times in a report compiled in 1701, although he no doubt knew of the name long before that year. Of course, Gravier wrote , , and ,27 which are the expected French spellings. His recordings of this place name thus represent the earliest authoritative spellings of it on record. Indeed, the spelling created by La Salle as well as all the variants based on the explorer’s term are but garblings of the original native place name that Gravier spelled carefully and intelligently.

Given the benefit of the doubt, La Salle could have used 8 in his original spelling of this place name. This letter could have then been retranscribed incorrectly to ou by Claude Bernou, his influential abbot friend in France who processed his letters. Or else La Salle could have picked up the name with final 8 from a priest’s notebook, since Jesuit and Recollect missionaries alike used the letter 8, and then refitted it himself with final ou. La Salle hated and harassed the Jesuits but got along fairly well with the Recollects. Although it is not impossible that he got the term from a Jesuit notebook, the odds seem to favor his having seen it among the notes of a Recollect priest, perhaps in something penned by Father Zenobe Membre. Membre, a member of La Salle’s entourage, did exhibit an interest in learning the Illinois language. In this connection, however, Swenson’s belief that Membre actually learned Illinois in a few months is fantasy.28

Despite its misshapen ending, La Salle’s still holds an important secret. Its grammatical nature in Illinois indicates that it would have been the name of a waterway. In other words, the form “sikaakwa is expected for a stream name, but not for the name of a site. Had La Salle recorded the name for a spot particularly blessed with wild leeks, he would have gotten one of the following two possible Miami-Illinois forms. The first is sikaakonki ‘at the striped skunk,’ that is, ‘at the wild leek.’ This is a locative noun, which is a grammatical category used when creating names for places in Algonquian. Had La Salle recorded this particular term, it would have looked something like *Checagongi in his orthography. The second expected form for a site named after the wild leek would be *sikaak-wahkionki ‘in the striped skunk land,’ that is, ‘in the wild leek land.’ In La Salle’s spelling, this would have looked something like *Checagoukiongi. In the earliest historical record, neither term seems to occur. However, after La Salle’s time the sikaakonki form did exist historically as the Miami name for the site where Fort Dearborn later stood.29

As noted at the beginning, it was Swenson’s work with the early historical and linguistic sources that led to the identification of Chicago’s eponymous plant as Allium tricoccum. This was a major contribution to our knowledge of this place name. Perhaps it was this important success that, unfortunately, led Swenson to attempt a botanical identification of other plant terms in the Illinois language.

Although an annoyance for the scholar, the least serious of the problems in his article is Swenson’s having presented his own interpolated Illinois terms while appearing to cite actual forms from the Illinois language manuscript dictionaries.30 In addition, his failure to recognize that in the Illinois-French dictionary and the form that he cites from Le Boullenger’s dictionary are simply an older and a newer form of the same word is also a forgivable error.31

A major problem, however, occurred in his attempt to link an Illinois term with Allium canadense, a plant known in American English as the wild onion. In doing so, he offered the French expression “oignon doux,” meaning “sweet onion,” as the translation for his interpolated Illinois-French dictionary (that is, the “Gravier” dictionary) entry “Sapissipina” (actual , and .34 The latter term appears twice in this particular Jesuit missionary’s dictionary, and the actual translations are “oignons venant dans leau, pomme de terre blanches (sic),” meaning “bulbs coming in water, white potatoes” (where “coming” means “growing out of”) in addition to “especes d’oignons qui naissent dans Leau,” meaning “kinds of bulbs that are born in water.”35 The basis for much of this confusion on Swenson’s part is that he misread La Salle’s description of the edible roots of the Illinois Country: “La terre y produit quantite de racines bonnes a manger comme les ognons doux, ouabipena, ouabicipena, une autre racine excellente longue comme le doigt et grosse de mesme, les pommes de terre, l’ail, l’ognonnet et les macopins.” (“The earth there produces many roots that are good to eat, such as sweet onions, ouabipena, oubicipena, another excellent root that is as long and fat as a finger, potatoes, garlic, the little onion, and wild sweet potatoes.”) Swenson mistakenly assumed that La Salle’s and were in apposition to “ognons doux,”36 whereas we know that all three names refer to different plants.

Furthermore, although it is not impossible that the French expression “oignon doux” all by itself could refer to Allium canadense, as Swenson presumed, it would be hard to prove that. In any event, it is clear that “8abissipena” (La Salle’s ), which Swenson translates to French “oignon doux,” is certainly not Allium canadense, for Allium canadense is in no way an aquatic plant, nor is it a “pomme de terre” (French for “potato”), since this French expression was used historically as a general designation for edible tubers.

The Illinois term in question is waapisihpena, whose constituents are | waap-esi-hpen-a | ‘white’-animate intransitive final-‘tuber’-animate noun marker. The word is cognate with Ojibwa waabiziipin. Furthermore, the Illinois and Ojibwa terms denoted the same plant historically, since the French-borrowed Ojibwa term for this plant actually occurs several times in the Illinois-French dictionary as a translation for the Illinois term.37 The plant in question is not Allium canadense but Sagittaria latifolia commonly known as arrowhead, duck potato, wapato and arrow leaf, including related varieties as indicated by the Illinois-French dictionary’s translation itself.

As for the Illinois plant term, noted above, which is variously spelled ~ , this appears to be the word for rattlesnake root (Prenanthes racemosa).38 At least this is what Le Boullenger’s dictionary actually suggests. For some reason, when Swenson wrote his article, he failed to include Le Boullenger’s complete translation for , which is “racine pour se garantir de la moisure des serpens et qui les fait fuire. L’oignon est blanc et sort hors de terre. La tige a un pied de haut. Les feuilles 4 cotes et un petit bouton rouge a la teste,” meaning “(a) root to guard against snake bites and that makes snakes run away. The bulb is white and comes out of the ground. The stem is one foot tall. The leaves (have) four sides and (there is) a little red button on the head.”39

As for Swenson’s “8abipena” (the actual Illinois-French dictionary entry is the plural form ), this word literally means “white-tuber” in Illinois, and its constituents are | waap(i)-hpen-a | ‘white’-‘tuber’-animate noun marker. There is no evidence at all indicating that this term is synonymous with , as Swenson would have us believe. The entries for these two plants in the Illinois-French dictionary and the Le Boullenger dictionary in no way support Swenson’s notion. Based on the evidence available in these primary source dictionaries, is actually a cover term in the Illinois language for wild onions. Moreover, the Illinois word for Allium canadense is clearly .40 This is Illinois *iihkweehpiniiwaki waapihpeniiki ‘they are sterile tubers, whitetubers.’41 In this connection, Swenson’s statement that “Ouinississia” (Le Boullenger’s ) is Allium canadense contradicts the dictionary’s information itself.42 First of all, Le Boullenger’s ~ ~ ~ , as well as the Illinois-French dictionary’s (and plural ), are no doubt the same word. The differing first vowels and suggest that the terms came from different dialects of the Illinois language. Second, the spellings that end in are just older forms of this word.43 What is particularly important, however, is that this Illinois plant term cannot be ascribed to Allium canadense, as Swenson believed. Le Boullenger clearly intended to elucidate the meaning of when he added to it the combined Illinois and French comment to the entry,44 and is of course the very Illinois term in the priest’s dictionary on which Swenson based, correctly, his Allium tricoccum theory. Therefore, and its variants are obviously the standard expression for Allium tricoccum, while , as defined by the accompanying French observation “abusive,” is no doubt a slang term for the same plant.

Therefore, the correspondences between Illinois terms and scientific terms based on the Illinois language dictionaries’ primary sources are as follows:

In conclusion, an original spelling in the form *Chicag8 or *Checag8 representing Miami-Illinois term sikaakiva ‘striped skunk,’ that is, ‘wild leek,’ led to La Salle’s improperly published . His final represents an original 8 erroneously transcribed either by him or by one of his colleagues, a 8 that actually stood for wa. Although we do not have it in a document dated earlier than this spelling from 1680, the original spelling that served as the basis for La Salle’s did not vanish. It was still alive and doing well among the Jesuits in the mid-1700s, appearing in the work of the Detroit missionary Pierre Potier, who wrote and (“the Chicago fork”) as the name for the confluence of the Kankakee and Des Plaines rivers.45 And there is no way that these spellings of our Miami-Illinois term could be rewritten correctly with ou for 8.

Finally, while Miami-Illinois speakers in 1680 referred to the Des Plaines River as sikaakwa (siipiwi) ‘striped skunk (river)’ that is, ‘wild leek (river),’ it appears that late historic speakers of that language were calling the south branch of the Chicago River by this name. On a map drawn on 20 December 1812, Thomas Forsyth refers to the stream as , which is the Miami-Illinois term sikaakwa.46


1 Virgil J. Vogel, “Illinois’ Onion Patch,” Illinois History, XII (1958): 39-41; Virgil J.Vogel, “The Mystery of Chicago’s Name,” Mid-America, 40 (1988): 163-74; Virgil J. Vogel, Indian Place Names in Illinois (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1963); John F. Swenson, “Chicagoua/Chicago: The Origin, Meaning, and Etymology of a Place Name,” Illinois Historical Journal 84 (1991): 235-48.

2 For the definitive guidelines that apply to research in Native American place names, see Floyd G. Lounsbury, Iroquois Place-Names in the Champlain Valley (Albany: University of the State of New York, State Education Department, 1960). Reprinted from the Report of the New York-Vermont Interstate Commerce Commission on the Lake Champlain Basin, 1960, Legislative Document 9:23-66.

3 Phonemic spellings are italicized.

4 For Miami-Illinois phonemic “striped skunk,” see David J. Costa, “Miami-Illinois Animal Names,” Algonquian and Iroquoian Linguistics 17/3 (1992): 26. For the definitive description of the language, see David J. Costa, The Miami-Illinois Language (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003).

5 The doubling of a vowel indicates a long vowel, that is, a vowel pronounced with an extended length. In Miami-Illinois, as in other Algonquian languages, vowel length is phonemic, that is, it is an absolute determining factor in the shape and meaning of words. For example, in Miami-Illinois nipi means “water” but niipi means “my arrow.”

6 Swenson, “Chicagoua/Chicago: The Origin, Meaning, and Etymology of a Place Name,” 238.

7 Pierre Margry, ed., Decouvertes et etablissements des Francais dans l’ouest et dans le sud de l’Amerique septentrionale 1614-1754, Memoires et documents inedits recueillis et publies par Pierre Margry, 6 vols. [Paris: D. Jouast: 1876-1886] (New York: AMS Press [Reprint], 1974), 82. For a riveting study of the location of the Chicago portage, see Robert Knight and Lucius H. Zeuch, The Location of the Chicago Portage Route of the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 1928).

8 Jean Delanglez, “A Calendar of Lasalle Travels 1643-1683,” Mid-America 22 (1940): 294-5.

9 Ibid., 300.

10 Margry, ed., Decouvertes et etablissements des Francais, 165-7.

11 Swenson, “Chicagoua/Chicago: The Origin, Meaning, and Etymology of a Place Name,” 239.

12 The notion that the trader Pierre Porteret took part in the Mississippi voyage of European discovery, although a possibility, is not supported by contemporary sources. See Pierre Cholenec’s remarks in Camille de Rochemonteix, Les Lettres Jesuites en la Nouvelle France au XVIIe siecle, 3 vols. (Paris: Macon, Photat Freres, 1895-96), 3:607.

13 Reuben Gold Twaites, ed. Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 73 vols. (Cleveland: Burrows Brothers Co., 1896-1901), 60: 156.

14 For more on La Salle’s dubious place name legacy, see Michael McCafferty, “Wabash, Its Meaning and History,” Proceedings of the Thirty-First Algonquian Conference (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2000): 224-5.

15 C.F. Volney, “Tableau du Climat Et Du Sol Des Etats-Unis D’Amerique,” Vol. IV of OEuvres Completes, 2nd edition, 8 vols. (Paris: Parmentier and Froment, 1825), 467-6. e has in fact a broad range in Miami-Illinois. It can represent the sound written ai in English “fail,” e in “fell,” and even the a in “fallow.” Note that in Miami-Illinois vowels, there are no diphthongs as in their English equivalents.

16 For Joutel’s spelling, see Swenson, “Chicagoua/Chicago: The Origin, Meaning, and Etymology of a Place Name,” 238, note 5. Mascouten, a close sister language of Miami-Illinois, probably had *sekaakwa. Thus, Mascouten could be the origin of the spelling since, as noted by the French, this tribe was in the Chicago area in the early 1680s. see Margry ed., Decouvertes et etablissements des Francais, 2: 187. However, the majority of the historical recordings of this place name clearly represent the Miami-Illinois term.

17 Early French recorders did not use ou even for writing the Miami-Illinois verb suffix -oo.

18 Swenson, “Chicagoua/Chicago: The Origin, Meaning, and Etymology of a Place Name,” 248.

19 Ibid., 246.

20 Ibid., 246-7.

21 See John D. Nichols’s pooteewaatamii in William C. Sturtevant, ed. Handbook of the North American Indians (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978), 15: 741; see waasaasi in David J. Costa, “Miami-Illinois Tribe Names.” Proceedings of the Thirty-First Algonquian Conference (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press: 2000), 32.

22 [Illinois-French dictionary], [early eighteenth century] (Manuscript at the Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Hartford). For reasons of general accessibility, we will cite the recently published redaction of this dictionary: Carl Masthay, ed., Kaskaskia Illinois-to-French Dictionary (St. Louis, Missouri: The Editor, 2002), 62, 281, and Antoine-Robert Le Boullenger, dit Jean-Baptiste, [French-Illinois dictionary], [ca. 1725] (Manuscript at the John Carter Brown Library, Providence), folio 41. Masthay, Kaskaskia Illinois-to-French Dictionary, 72, 135, 194; ibid., 220; Francois Pinet (?),[French-Illinois dictionary], (Archives de la Societe de Jesus Canada francais. St-Jerome, Quebec), File 0004662: under “beufle”; Masthay, Kaskaskia Illinois-to-French Dictionary 67, 106; ibid., 58; ibid., 135; ibid., 165; ibid., 80; ibid., 293; ibid., 85; ibid., 314; ibid., 300; ibid., 186; ibid., 211. The of is -arwa, the plural form of the inanimate final -arwi. The initial form of the term, historically, is aroonhsi ‘bullet.’ The -arwi final is seen in names for types of arrows, e.g., ahtazvaanhsalwi ‘pointed wooden arrow.’ The final also appears in the names of plants that served in arrow production such as in the Peoria term for “dogwood,” iihkalwi. My thanks to David Costa for pointing out this stem.

23 Ibid., 93.

24 Thwaites, ed. Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 67: 294, 68: 202-4, 214, 328; Wayne Temple, Indian Villages of the Illinois Country: Historic Tribes. Revised edition. Vol. 2, part 2 (Springfield: Illinois State Museum, 1966), 12, 35, 41, 47.

25 Thwaites, ed. Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 59: 166, 174.

26 Ibid., 59: 167.

27 Ibid., 65: 52, 54, 100, 102. In this connection, it is also not impossible that La Salle’s published ,Checagou. represents a misreading of original *Checagoa, where a handwritten a was thought to be a u. In historic French texts the letters oa commonly stand for the sound -wa(a). Moreover, handwritten u and a are often taken one for the other.

28 Swenson, “Chicagoua/Chicago: The Origin, Meaning, and Etymology of a Place Name,” 242.

29 See , where c = s, in Jacob Piatt Dunn s notes ca. 1910, in David J. Costa, Dictionary of the Miami-Illinois Language (unpublished manuscript), 1998.

30 Swenson, Chicagoua/Chicago: The Origin, Meaning, and Etymology of a Place Name, 245.

31 Ibid., 245.

32 Ibid., 245. See , and , in Masthay, Kaskaskia Illinois-to-French Dictionary, 214, 233, 217, 250.

33 Ibid., 217.

34 Swenson, “Chicagoua/Chicago: The Origin, Meaning, and Etymology of a manuscript), 1998.

35 Le Boullenger, [French-Illinois dictionary], folios 128, 151.

36 Margry, ed., Decouvertes et etablissements des Francais, 2: 173.

37 Masthay, Kaskaskia Illinois-to-French Dictionary, 214, 217, 233, 238. I am grateful to Robert Vezina of l’universite Laval for our botany-related discussions and for identifying waapisihpena. My thanks also to Chuck Fiero for the Ojibwa phonemic spelling and to Carmen Laroche at l’universite de Montreal for our discussions on French terminology.

38 Masthay, Kaskaskia Illinois-to-French Dictionary, 237. wiihkap- is the initial meaning “sweet” and “salty.”

39 Le Boullenger, [French-Illinois dictionary], folio 151.

40 Masthay, Kaskaskia Illinois-to-French Dictionary, 122.

41 I would like to thank Ives Goddard of the Smithsonian Institution for his suggestion about the etymology of and its phonemic spelling. The initial in this term, written , appears to be “sterile” rather than “woman.” See and so on, in Masthay, Kaskaskia Illinois-to-French Dictionary, 166.

42 Swenson, “Chicagoua/Chicago: The Origin, Meaning, and Etymology of a Place Name,” 245, 248.

43 Le Boullenger, [French-Illinois dictionary], folio 5; Masthay, Kaskaskia Illinois-to-French Dictionary’, 234. The term in question is a kind of diminutive agentive noun in the form wiinihsihsia – wiinihsihsiwa. See David J. Costa, Dictionary of the Miami-Illinois Language, manuscript, 1998. The plant name is related to wiinisita ‘one who is smelly.’

44 Le Boullenger, [French-Illinois dictionary], folio 5.

45 Pierre-Philippe Potier, “Chemin, par terre, de S jos aux 8ia ~ de L.” and “avril S. Joseph,” manuscrits Potier, Gazettes (Archives de la Societe de Jesus Canada francais, St.Jerome, Quebec), 180, 166b.

46 Sarah Jones Tucker, comp. Indian Villages of the Illinois Country. Illinois State Museum Scientific Papers, 2(1). Pt. 1 (Springfield 1942), plate XXXVIII.

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