Popular Science Monthly/Volume 44/November 1893/North and South American Aboriginal Names

Popular Science Monthly Volume 44 November 1893  (1893) 
North and South American Aboriginal Names by M. V. Moore



THERE are numerous evidences showing that the same aboriginal peoples who named the waters of North America coined also the prehistoric geographical titles in South America. Scores of actual identities are revealed in the prehistoric nomenclatures of the two portions of this continent. These identities are not only in various terms that appear in the river names which still survive and betray the tongue of indeterminate ages here, but the very same ancient words in full are apparently reproduced in many instances. The reproductions are indeed of such a character as to induce the belief that the earliest civilization of both North and South America had origin in one common ancestry. The oldest nomenclature surviving in the countries both North and South certainly indicates origin in civilization.

We have now no definite knowledge as to how some of the old aboriginal names should be properly written in our English idiom. There are slightly different versions or expressions of the ancient words which have been perpetuated in the idioms of the French, Spanish, and Portuguese—words that are evidently the same thing in remotest origin and structure. From the very beginning of the modern European conquest and colonization, the "Indian" names have been invested chiefly with what is purely a fanciful and conjectural orthography in their English writings. There has been no surviving testimonial, in either living or dead tongues, fixing the definite expression of the ancient words just as the native man would have written them had he been possessed of the proper facilities.

Sometimes the old native names have been made to appear unnecessarily grotesque in their writing—in some instances as much so as the rude savage himself appears personally—the fact illustrated in the writing Youghiogheney for simply Ya-og-ha-na, and in Esquemeaux for Es-ka-mo. Many purely poetic garbs of the old words have become incorporated into our permanent geographical literature. The names Mississippi and Tennessee are examples of the fanciful versions of the old aboriginal titles: the former is supposed to have been in sounds represented by the English writing Mes-sis-a-pa, while the oldest historic records extant showing the latter give the writing as Ten-as-sa. What is evidently one ancestral word appears in the modern versions of Shetuanee, Sewanee, Suwanee, Swanan, and Chowan. The French writing Cheyenne is the same word in the remote ancestry, as is now believed.

There is a South American river name written in our English idiom Amaccura. In Florida we have the old aboriginal title Amaxura. No man is now learned enough to maintain, with any assurance of truth or authority in his favor, that from either standpoint, historical or etymological, there is any real or essential difference in the two names.

The same thing may be said of two other well-known ancient "Indian" appellations—Orinoco and Oronoko, as they are now written in our English versions. The former is a native South American word, while the latter—Oronoko—is unquestionably an aboriginal North American river name. A corruption of the ancient name has been applied, as the permanent modern title of the stream, in the word written Roanoke, the old initial vowel sound in o finally dropped. Our wisest philologists are unable to determine any difference in the true etymology of the two writings, Orinoco and Oronoko.

Nor can they perceive the real difference—for none exists—in the Carolina river name Occonee and the South American appellation written Ocona. We have in North America the name Pawnee; in South America they have what is doubtless the very same thing in the writing Pana (Pawna). We have in New England the native name Chicopee; South America has Chicapa. (Our authorities tell us that "oopee," "upa," "opee," "ippe," "epe," "apa," etc., are simply dialectic expressions showing one common ancestry—each being a term for water or river in the native tongues of the continent.) We have Omaha; South America has Omagha. We have Aboite; South America has Abaite. We have in South Carolina the river name Saluda; South America has the Saladorio, the Sal-aw-dow River. We have Tygar River; South America has Tigri. (The Old World has the name written in English Tigris—really Te-ga-ri, or the De-ka-li of the Hebrew; all three of the names—Tygar, Tigri, and Tigris—showing a common though very remote ancestry.)

Chico and Chota are found in native names in both North and South America. We have Choco and Choccolocco; while South America has Choco-loochee. "Loochees" and "oochees," or "uchas," without number, are found all over the continent. North as well as South, in the native names of waters. In South America are several Ubas, ancient appellations of waters. California has two rivers, the prehistoric Indian names, written Yuba. There are scores of "oobas" and "ubas" in the ancient names of waters of the continent both North and South. And what is a more startling feature of the prehistoric speech of the New World is the fact that this same word, or the sounds heard in the writing "uba" or "yuba," is found in the prehistoric water nomenclature of various peoples of the Old World.

South America has Pachitae; Georgia has Pachita. Brazil has Paculi, or Pacoolee; South Carolina has Pacola, or, as it is written in the old French idiom, Pacolet, the final letter silent. Illinois has Peoria, an ancient Indian name of a lake; South America has Piura and Peru; while Louisiana has the bayou name Pero, the French idiom rendering the old word as Perot.

It is scarcely reasonable to conclude that all these—and many more that are known to exist in the way of coincidences, identities, and similarities in the prehistoric water nomenclature of the continent—are the result of mere accident, or in conformity to any universal lingual law. The vast array of actual correspondences can be accounted for reasonably or properly only on the theory or hypothesis that one common ancestral tongue was known and understood by the race of peoples who overran and colonized the continent in the remote indeterminate past—a race of peoples who so fixed their speech in the river names of the Western world that the words have survived through all the mutations of governments, and through all the changes incident to the human tongue in the countless ages that have intervened since the beginning when the words were first applied here to the waters. It is a very singular and striking fact in human history that the names of rivers or other waters have outlived all other evidences of the prehistoric human speech. There are yet in existence the names of the waters of the very primitive home of man itself, when all other evidences of the Adamic age and tongue have been swept into utter oblivion. We know that the names of most of the waters of the Old World have origin in indeterminate eras: the old word-landmarks have been preserved and perpetuated through the countless changes in nations and tongues since, with no other variations save those incident to the different idioms in the old and the new, our word Nile being the English idiom rendering the Latin Nilus and the Sanskrit Nali. Rhine is the English of the old Rhenus or the older Rina. The ancestral germs in the respective words are easily determined and read in each idiomatic expression.

We find in great frequency in the prehistoric river names of both North and South America a word or term that is variously written in our geographical literature as augua, agua, aqua, auqua, ogga, occa, and otherwise. Many of the old names have come to us through the early Spanish records, these showing in most instances the Spanish form or idiom in writing the (Spanish) term or word for water or river, augua. But we can not believe, with reason in our favor, that wherever the term appears in the writing of the prehistoric names its presence is wholly due to the Spanish influence on the continent. The term occurs in native names in localities where there is no evidence showing that the Spanish influence was ever felt there. It is found also in sections where the Spaniard did not remain long enough to permanently inject his term agua, or augua, into the dialects of the aborigines. Indeed, no native tribes or peoples have been known on the continent who have readily adopted the tongue or even the general terms of a foreign race. Even the modern Indians have persistently rejected the tongue of the European.

And yet we have such South and Central American names as the following—titles that are regarded as native or aboriginal—in the modern writings: Ur-augua, Par-augua, Agua-pi, Nicaragua, Conch-augua, Des-augua-dero; these and many more showing the same term that is conspicuous in our native Indian appellations, written Wat-auga, Chicam-auga, Canadian-augua, Nottas-augua, Aut-augua, and the like, in North America words that are quite universally regarded as pure aboriginal names, the main term entirely free from the influences of the Caucasian tongue.