Alaska, one of the few places on the North American continent where names predating the arrival of European settlers are still in common use, is updating its registry of place names.
Image from Rick Clark on Flickr
This will no doubt shed more light on the living history of the still largely isolated state. With such luminaries as Lost Temper Creek, Eek, Chicken, and, in that pre-European tradition, Sagavanirktok, (a villiage named after an Inuit word for strong current) one can’t help wonder how difficult the job of updating Alaskan place names might be.
The previous edition of the “Directory of Alaska Place Names”, last published in 1971 by the U.S. Geological Survey, ran over 1,000 pages, and has received periodic appendices ever since. Despite the USGS website offering the information in an up-to-date format on their website, Alaska-based Todd Communications is printing the updated version of the directory for a 2009 release, with the idea that a book is more easily browsed and enjoyed than the digital reference presently available.
And what of the places in Alaska’s vast wilderness that don’t have names?
They may never get them, reports the state historian– Alaska has a philosophy of protecting nature, even from man’s impulse to label.
We’ll even throw in a free album.