Week In Review: Beginning Of The End For Mount Rainier? | KUOW News and Information

Week In Review: Beginning Of The End For Mount Rainier?

Sep 4, 2015

Mount McKinley is reverting to its native Alaskan name, Denali. So how about renaming Mount Rainier? Plus, Seattle teachers, who might strike next week, are in a union – should Uber drivers be, too? And which words are too offensive for the college classroom?

Bill Radke discusses the week’s news with Eli Sanders, Knute Berger and Erica C. Barnett.

Guests include Danni Askini of the Gender Justice League; Seattle University law professor Elizabeth Ford; City Council candidate Jonathan Grant, formerly of the Tenants Union of Washington State; and local landlord Richard Hagar.

This week the issue of what to call that big white lump south of Tacoma was raised after President Barack Obama issued an executive order renaming the nation’s highest mountain as Denali. A flurry of news stories and op-ed columns about Mount Rainier followed. A KUOW Facebook post posing the question was weighted heavily toward renaming Rainier.

One issue: Tahoma isn’t the only name that the original people around here called the mountain. Other names that have been floated over the years: Tacoma, Talol, Tacobeh, Tacobet, Ti’Swaq and Pooskaus.

There’s no question for the Puyallup Tribe, however.

“We don’t call it Rainier, we call it Tahoma,” tribal spokesman John Weymer told KUOW.

Former Tacoma mayor Bill Baarsma favors Tacoma but would be happy with Tahoma, too. As long as it’s not Rainier, named by Capt. George Vancouver for a British naval buddy, Peter Rainier.

“I can understand naming a mountain after an assassinated president, but after an admiral who fought against the Americans in the Revolutionary War? I just don’t get it,” he told KUOW.

Baarsma, president of the Tacoma Historical Society, says logic and fairness are on the side of renaming the mountain. He said William Tolmie, commandant of Fort Nisqually, called the mountain “Tuchoma” and the city of Tacoma was named after the mountain.

Even if there’s agreement on a name and no organized opposition to changing it, there are hurdles to overcome.

You need to get an act of Congress or persuade the president to issue an executive order, as Obama did with Denali.

Or you can go to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. But the board warns that "changing a name merely to correct or re-establish historical usage is not in and of itself a reason to change a name." And the public, local governments, the State Names Authority and land management agencies get their say.

So could proponents of Tahoma succeed today?

Weymer said the publicity over Denali might result in a conversation between the tribe and Tacoma’s current mayor about an organized bid for Tahoma, but nothing is planned.

“In the end it’s kind of hard to rationalize or come up with a reasonable or logical argument for keeping the name,” Baarsma said. “Naming it after your friend? Give me a break, that’s not an argument.”