In all my writing and cartography since publication of Haa L’éelk’w Hás Aani Saax’ú: Our grandparents’ names on the land (Thornton & Martin, eds. 2012), I’ve used Lingít place names whenever available, followed by their translation in italic, and colonial or “commemorative” name in parentheses.

Lingít place names in the downtown area.

Example: Kadigooni X’áat’, island with spring water (Spuhn Island). Carl Spuhn, if you’re interested, was like JM Vanderbilt a principal in the Northwest Trading Company that dislodged family fish camps and exhausted salmon & herring runs throughout Lingít Aaní. (Oh yeah, and the destruction of Angoon)  Background checks are a good idea for  commemorative names dating to the period of early imperialist invasion or Russian-to-American transfer. Participants rarely come up smelling rosy.

Where no place name is listed in Thornton & Martin (henceforth T&M12), I may default, for now at least, to the colonial name. Increasingly, however, I’ve been trying to wean myself from some of the most ‘aggressive’ commemoratives, especially the ‘big three:’ Juneau, Mendenhall and Gastineau. You can reduce the number of times you pronounce these unfortunate names by instead saying: Downtown, The Valley, and The Channel. In Áak’w and T’aakú Aaní, everyone will know what you mean.

And as for the name of this website—JuneauNature—sorry! After 4 years of incubation, I guess it’s irrevocably ‘locked-in.’ If I were starting today, I’d probably name it something like SoutheastAlaskaNature, less beholden to old white dudes. Or, better yet—since Southeast Alaska is also a euro-construct (“Southeast” of what?!)—LingítAaníNature. Of course, as an old white dude myself, I need to weigh support for the revolution against the perception of appropriation.

Restoration is perhaps the most urgent component of the place-names revolution. But for me, guilt and embarrassment are weak motivators. More sustaining is loveof the poetry and rationality of naming places according to their stories, oddities, and essences. As a naturalist I’m empowered and often thrilled by Lingít place names. Gunalchéesh, to all the elders, culture bearers and linguists who’ve shared them!

The essay Naming our home, summarizes what I’ve learned about the history of names, and the political realities of restoring original names to official maps. State and Federally funded maps can only use place names sanctified by the US Board on Geographic Names. Although ponderous, there are encouraging trends within that Washington DC-based institution, and even more good stuff happening in cartographic offices closer to home. Meanwhile, for our own maps, freed of bureaucratic constraints, let’s get down to it!

In this section

Teachers visit Angoon

Weekend in Xutsnoowú Aaní On the cusp of March and April, an inspired and inspiring group of teachers, organizers and…

2023 | Richard Carstensen | 41 pages

Xunaa Ḵáawu: Why do we live here?

‘Syllabus’ for a course at Hoonah, 2014-15 Seems high time I got this and several other ‘scoping’ documents out there…

2014: updates 2023 | Richard Carstensen | 66 pages

Chilkat place names

Jilkáat and Jilkoot Aaní, land of Chilkat & Chilkoot people The 2012 cultural atlas edited by Tom Thornton and Harold…

2020 | Richard Carstensen | geopdf, 17MB

Glacial & cultural history of northern Lingít Aaní

A fireside presentation My talk at the Visitor Center in February, 2020 explored the past 20,000 years of glaciation and…

2020 | Richard Carstensen | 27 minutes

Mid-May on Shaa Tlaax

Goats, geology & zonation on Shaa Tlaax, moldy top (Mt Juneau) Video-journal of the flora, fauna, and geomorphology that hikers…

2019 | Richard Carstensen | 4 minutes

Kaxdigoowu Héen (Montana Creek): presentation for SEAL Trust

Slideshow in two parts Kaxdigoowu Héen, going back clearwater has been one of my favorite places since I first explored…

2019 | Richard Carstensen & John Hudson | slide show in 2 parts: 38 & 22 minutes

People on the land

The central chapter in my 2013 publication Natural history of Juneau trails, pages 29-36, is a summary of deep and…

2013 | Richard Carstensen | 7 pages (full publication, 72 pages)

Áak’w & T’aakú Aaní: the natural history of resilience

Presentation for Evening at Egan On November 9th, 2018, I gave the second in a series of 4 lectures for…

Nov, 2018 | Richard Carstensen | 36 minutes

Why do we live here?

Factors in village site selection People on the land, yesterday, today and tomorrow. In early 2013, Goldbelt Heritage Foundation (GHF),…

2014 | Richard Carstensen | 63 pages

1999 fall newsletter: No Name Bay and other misnomers

My feature essay explores native and non-native places names †in Southeast Alaska. Another piece by Kathy Hocker discusses the importance…

Fall 1999 | Richard Carstensen | 4 pages

Naming our home

Name as story; name as narcissism Over the past decade, I’ve grown increasingly interested in cultural differences in the way…

2013: update 2020 | Richard Carstensen | 5 pages

Our grandparents’ names on the land

Haa L’éelk’w Hás Aani Saax’ú: Our grandparents‚’ names on the land. Sealaska Heritage Institute; University of Washington Press. Cultural atlas…

2012 | Thornton & Martin, eds | 232 pages