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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PUBLICATIONS

IN

AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY

Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 31-69 June 15, 1916



CALIFORNIA PLACE NAMES OF
INDIAN ORIGIN



A. L. KROEBER



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS
BERKELEY



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February, 1908 - " <DO

Index, pp. 381-400.



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PUBLICATIONS

IN

AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY

Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 31-69 June 15, 1916



CALIFORNIA PLACE NAMES OF
INDIAN ORIGIN

BY
A. L. KROEBER



The origin of many place-names in California which are of Indian
derivation is very imperfectly known, and has often been thoroughly
misunderstood. There is no subject of information in which rumor
and uncritical tradition hold fuller sway than in this field. The best
literature dealing with the topic and it is one of widespread interest
contains more errors than truths. The present compilation, in spite
of probably embodying numerous misunderstandings and offering
only doubt or ignorance on other points, is at least an attempt to
approach the inquiry critically. It is based on fifteen years of
acquaintance, from the anthropological side, with most of the Indian
tribes of the state. In the course of the studies made in this period,
geographical and linguistic data were accumulated, which, while not
gathered for the present purpose, serve to illuminate, even though
often only negatively, the origin and meaning of many place-names
adopted or reputed to have been taken from the natives. Authorities
have been cited where they were available and known. If they are not
given in more cases, it is because unpublished notes of the writer are
in all such instances the source of information.

The present state of knowledge as to place-names derived from the
Indians is illustrated by the following example. There are nine
counties in California, Colusa, Modoc, Mono, Napa, Shasta, Tehama,
Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba, whose names are demonstrably or almost
demonstrably of Indian origin, and two others, Inyo and Siskiyou,
that presumably are also Indian. Of these eleven, Maslin in his of-
ficially authorized list, cited below, gives two, Mono and Yuba, as being
Spanish ; he adds Solano and Marin, of which the first is certainly and



32 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12

the latter probably Spanish, as being Indian ; and the only etymologies
which he mentions those for Modoc, Napa, Shasta, Tuolumne, and
Yolo are all either positively erroneous or unverified. The lists by
other authors, which include the names of less widely known locali-
ties, are as a rule even more unreliable. The prevalent inclination has
been to base explanations of place-names of Indian origin not on
knowledge, or where certainty is unattainable on an effort at investi-
gation, but on vague though positively stated conjectures of what such
names might have meant, or on naive fancies of what would have been
picturesque and romantic designations if the unromantic Indian had
used them. It is therefore a genuine pleasure to mention one notable
and recent exception, the Spanish and Indian Place Names of Cali-
fornia of Nellie Van de Grift Sanchez, a really valuable work which
unites honest endeavor and historical discrimination with taste and
pleasing presentation. 1

To avoid an array of foot-notes, most references have been cited
in the text in a simplified form, which will be clear upon consultation
of the following list.

MASLIN: Prentiss Maslin. I have not seen this work, printed for or by the
State of California, in the original. It may be more accessible to most readers
as reprinted as an appendix to John S. McGroarty's California, 1911, pages 311
and following. As the names follow one another in alphabetical order, page
references are unnecessary.

GANNETT: Henry Gannett, "The Origin of Certain Place-Names in the
United States." U. S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 197, 1902. As this is also
an alphabetic list, page references have again been omitted.

BAILEY: G. E. Bailey, "History and Origin of California Names and
Places," in several instalments (the pages indicated in the table of contents
for the volume are in part erroneous), in volume 44 of the Overland Monthly,
San Francisco, July to December, 1904. The Indian section is arranged alpha-
betically and begins on page 564.

POWERS: Stephen Powers, "Tribes of California," being Contributions to
North American Ethnology, volume 3, Washington, 1877.

MERRIAM: C. Hart Merriam, "Distribution and Classification of the Mewan
Stock of California," American Anthropologist, new series, volume 9, pages 338-
357, 1907.

BARRETT, POMO: S. A. Barrett, "The Ethno-geography of the Porno and
Neighboring Indians, ' ' being pages 1 to 332 of volume 6 of the present series
of publications. Page citations follow the title, in references in the present
text made to this and the following works.

BARRETT, MIWOK: S. A. Barrett, "The Geography and Dialects of the Mi wok
Indians, ' ' pages 333 to 368 of volume 6 of the same series of publications.

1 San Francisco, A. M. Robertson, 1914.



1916] Kroeber: California Place Names of Indian Origin 33

KROEBER, MIWOK: A. L. Kroeber, "On the Evidences of the Occupation of
Certain Regions by the Miwok Indians," pages 369 to 380 of the same volume
as the last.

KROEBER, SHOSHONEAN: The same, "Shoshonean Dialects of California,"
volume 4, pages 65 to 165, also of the present series.

KROEBER, CAHUILLA: The same, "Ethnography of the Cahuilla Indians,"
pages 29 to 68 of volume 8 of the present series.

Several important original sources, such as Hugo Reid in the Los
Angeles Star of 1852, and Alexander Taylor in the California Farmer
of 1860 following, are referred to or partly extracted, so far as Indian
place-names are concerned, in the above works.

The number of California place-names taken from the several Cali-
fornia Indian languages varies greatly. In general, Spanish occupa-
tion has been more favorable than American settlement to preservation
of native designations of localities. The distribution of positively and
probably identified names, according to their source from the various
families of speech, is as follows :

Shoshonean 33 Maidu 7

Chumash 28 Yuki 6

Miwok 26 Athabascan 4

Wintun 25 Salinan 2

Yurok 16 Shastan 2

Yuman 15 Washo 1

Porno 13 Lutuami 1

Yokuts 9 Wiyot 1

Costanoan 7

Karok, Chimariko, Yana, and Esselen have furnished no terms to
modern California geography.

Such obviously imported names of Indian origin as Cherokee,
Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, Tioga, Sequoya, and Maricopa, have not
been discussed in the present account.



THE NAMES

Acalanes, a land grant in Contra Costa County, in the vicinity of
the present town of Lafayette, is probably named from a Costanoan
Indian village of the vicinity, Akalan or something similar, which the
Spaniards dignified into the Acalanes "tribe." The ending occurs on
many Costanoan village names : Sacla-n, Olho-n, Bolbo-n, Mutsu-n, etc.

Aguanga, in Riverside County, has no connection with Spanish
agua, "water," but is a place or village name of the Shoshonean



34 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12

Luiseno Indians. The meaning is not known, but the word is derived
from the place-name proper, Awa, plus the Indian locative case end-
ing -nga (Kroeber, Shoshonean, 147).

Akpah creek, entering the Klamath River from the south just above
Blue Creek, in Humboldt County, is named from its Yurok designa-
tion, O'po.

Ahwahnee, in Madera County, is situated forty miles from the orig-
inal Awani, which was the Southern Miwok name of the largest village
in Yosemite Valley and therefore of the valley itself. The Indian
name of American Ahwahnee was Wasama (Merriam, 346, and Bar-
rett, Miwok, 343). It is of interest, though perhaps of no bearing in
the present connection, that a similar name, Awaniwi, appears among
the far-distant but related Coast Miwok Indians of Marin County as
the appelation of a former village in the northern part of the city of
San Rafael.

Algomah, in Siskiyou County, is of unknown origin, and suggests
coinage, or borrowing from the Eastern place-name Algoma, also
coined, given by Gannett.

Algootoon, which does not appear on most maps, is given by Bailey
as another name of Lakeview, Riverside County, and as derived from
Algoot, the Saboba (i.e., Luiseno) hero who killed "Taquitch" (see
Tahquitz). The name Algut sounds Luiseno, but does not appear in
the Sparkman Luiseno dictionary in possession of the University of
California. It is probably a Spanish spelling of Alwut, ' ' raven, ' ' who
is one of the most important traditional and religious heroes of the
Luiseno, and into whom Tukupar, "Sky," turned himself when he
went to visit Takwish on Mount San Jacinto preparatory to killing
him. 2 This etymology, however, does not account for the last syllable
of "Algootoon." Were it not that guesses are already more numerous
in these matters than knowledge, the writer would be tempted to
hazard the suggestion of a possible American corruption from Spanish
algodon, "cotton."

Aloma mountain, in Ventura County, has an unidentified name.

Anacapa, the name of the island off Ventura County, is absurdly
given by Bailey, page 360, as Spanish for ' ' Cape Ann. ' ' The Chumash
original is Anyapah, recorded by Vancouver as Enneeapah, misspelled
Enecapah by the map engraver, and then Spanicized into Anacapa
(Sanchez, 351, fide George Davidson).



2 Journ. Am. Folk Lore, xix, 318, 1906



1916] Kroeber: California Place Names of Indian Origin 35

Anapamu, the name of a street in Santa Barbara city, is said locally
to be of Indian origin 3 and has a good Chumash ring.

Aptos, in Santa Cruz County, is given by Bailey as the name
of a ' ' tribe. ' ' If this is a fact, the village was Costanoan ; but the
derivation from Spanish apto seems not impossible.

Arcata, in Humboldt County, is said by Gannett to mean "sunny
spot" in Indian. Such a place-name would be very unusual in any
California Indian language, nor does the sound suggest a word in the
Wiyot language, which is the idiom spoken in the vicinity.

Aukum, in Eldorado County, is, if Indian, which seems doubtful,
of Northern Mi wok origin.

Ausaymas, a land grant in Santa Clara and San Benito counties,
is obviously named after the Ausaymas or Ansaymas Indians men-
tioned in Arroyo de la Cuesta's Phrase Book of the Mutsun Language
as speaking a dialect somewhat different from that of the Mutsunes.
Evidently Ausayma and Mutsun were both Costanoan villages near
Mission San Juan Bautista.

Avawatz mountains, north of Ludlow in San Bernardino County,
have a name that sounds like good Shoshonean. Southern Paiute or
Serrano tribes lived in the neighborhood.

Azusa, or Asuza, in Los Angeles County, was a Gabrielino Sho-
shonean village, Asuksa-gna in Gabrielino 4 or Ashuksha-vit in the
neighboring Serrano 5 dialect. According to a correspondent, 6 the
word means ' ' skunk hill. ' '

Bally, or Bully, mountain, in Shasta County near the Trinity line,
has its name from Wintun boli ( o like English " aw " ) , " spirit. ' ' See
Bully Choop and Yallo Bally. There is also a Bully Hill in Shasta
County between the Pit and McCloud rivers.

Beegum and Beegum Butte, in Tehama County, are names of un-
identified origin.

Bohemotash mountain, in Shasta County, bears a northern Wintun
name. Bohem is "large," but the second part of the word is not
known.



3 J. P. Harrington, American Anthropologist, n. s. xni, 725, 1911.

* Hugo Eeid, originally in the Los Angeles Star, quoted by A. Taylor, Cali-
fornia Farmer, xiv, 1861, and by Hoffman, Bulletin Essex Institute, xvn, 1885.

s Present series, vill, 39, 1908.

Mr. C. C. Baker of Azusa, quoting Mr. W. A. Dalton, whose godfather was
Hugo Reid: Azuncsabit, "skunk hill," the skunks being of the small or polecat
variety, and the name applied by the Indians to the hill, east of the present
town, where the ranch house of the grant stood. As -bit is the regular locative
ending in Serrano, the literal meaning was probably "skunk place" rather
than "hill."



36 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12

Bolbones, or more fully Arroyo de las Nueces y Bolbones, a grant
in Contra Costa County, probably derives its name from a village
whose inhabitants were called Volvon, Bolbon, and Bulbones by the
Spaniards. See Bancroft, Native Races, I, 453.

Bolinas, in Marin County, is said by Sanchez, 228, 355, to be prob-
ably an alteration of Los Baulines, a grant name, based in all likeli-
hood on an Indian geographical designation. This seems reasonable.
The division involved would be the Coast Miwok, and the native word
probably Wauli-n.

Bully Choop, or Bally Chup, mountain, between Shasta and Trinity
counties, is apparently from Wintun ~boli, "spirit." The meaning of
chup is not known. See Bally and Yallo Bally.

Buriburi, a land grant in San Mateo County, is a name of unknown
source. The grant is near San Bruno, so that the Costanoan Indians
on it would have been attached to Mission Dolores in San Francisco.
Urebure occurs as the name of one of the many rancherias formerly
existing in the vicinity of Mission Dolores. 7

Cahto, in Mendocino County, is in Athabascan territory and has
come to be used, in the form Kato, for an Athabascan tribe or division,
but is a Porno word, meaning "lake." 8 The Bailey definition of
"quicksand," from cah, "water," and to, "mush," is unproved; al-
though ka and to separately have this meaning in Porno, and the ety-
mology is repeated in the meaning cited in Barrett (Porno, 262), for
Bida-to, "mush-stream" (also, it is said, on account of the presence
of quicksand), the Northern Porno name of a Coast Yuki village at
the mouth of Ten Mile River in the same part of Mendocino County.
Cahto Creek in southeastern Humboldt County is probably the same
name as Cahto in northern Mendocino.

Cahuenga pass and peak, in Los Angeles County, are undoubtedly
named from some Gabrielino Shoshonean word, as shown by the
locative ending -nga.

Cahuilla, often written Coahuila, but always pronounced "Kawia"
and never "Kwawila," is the name of a Shoshonean tribe, or rather
dialect group, located in San Gorgonio Pass, the Colorado desert, and
the vicinity of the present Cahuilla reservation in Riverside County.
The name, ever since Reid, an excellent authority, has been said to
mean "master," but the author has never found an Indian to cor-



Bancroft, Native Eaces, I, 453.

Goddard, present series, v, 67, 1909; Powers, 150.



1916] Kroeber: California Place Names of Indian Origin 37

roborate this interpretation, or to admit the word as being anything
else than Spanish. There is no connection with Kaweah.

Calleguas, in Ventura County, is derived from Chumash Kayiwush,
"my head," the name of a rancheria.

Calpella, in Mendocino County, according to Barrett, Porno, 143, is
named after Kalpela, the chief of the former Northern Porno village
of Chomchadila, situated "on the mesa just south of the town of
Calpella. ' ' Kalpela 's name 9 ' ' was given to his people, and was applied
by the whites in a general way to all of the Indians living in Redwood
Valley. . . . The late Mr. A. E. Sherwood is authority for the state-
ment that ' Cal-pa-lau ' signifies ' mussel or shellfish bearer, ' ' whence
Bailey 's notice is apparently derived. ' ' Mussel ' ' is khal, hal, in North-
ern Porno.

Camulos, in Ventura County, is named from an Indian village
Kamulus or Kamulas. 10 This territory has usually been considered
Chumash, but was more likely Shoshonean ; it is, however, probable
that Kamulas was its Chumash name; at any rate, the etymology in
Chumash is my-mulus, mulus being an edible fruit.

Capay, a land grant in Glenn and Tehama counties, and another in
Yolo County, the latter surviving in modern nomenclature as Capay
Valley, are named from Southern Wintun (Patwin) kapai, "stream."

Carquinez straits, in San Francisco Bay, are named from a South-
ern Wintun ' ' tribe ' ' or village, Carquin or Karkin.

Caslamayomi, a land grant in Sonoma County, seems Indian, espe-
cially on account of its ending, -yomi or -yome, which means ' ' place
both in Southern Porno and Coast Miwok.

Castac Lake, in Tejon Pass in Kern County, and Castac Creek in
Los Angeles County, are named from a Shoshonean village, situated
near the mouth of the stream, and called by the neighboring Chumash
Kashtuk (the u unrounded), "my eyes" (dual), or "our eye." A
frequented Indian trail led from the village up the stream to the lake
and thence into the San Joaquin Valley whence probably the appli-
cation of the name to the two localities. The Shoshonean Kitanemuk
or Serrano of the vicinity of the lake call this Auvapya, and the
Yokuts of the San Joaquin Valley Sasau. Both words mean "at the
eye." The Castac grant extended from Castac Lake north into the
San Joaquin Valley.



Kecited in Kroeber, Shoshonean, 152.

!0 Handbook of American Indians, Bur. Am. Ethn. Bull. 30, part I, 649.



38 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12

Catacula, in Napa County, is a name of unknown origin. The
grant lay in Wintun or Wappo territory.

Caymus grant in Napa County is named for the Yukian Wappo
village of Kaimus, derivation unknown, formerly on the site of what
is now Yountville (Barrett, Porno, 268).

Cayucos, in San Luis Obispo County, means ''boats" or "skiffs"
in South American Spanish, according to the dictionaries, while
Cayuca, a form of the name that also appears, denotes "head" in
Cuban Spanish.

Chagoopa plateau and creek, southwest of Mount Whitney, are in
Tulare County. The meaning is unknown, but the name is almost
certainly a Mono word. A familiar Shoshonean noun ending -pa
appears, as also in Ivanpah, Hanaupah, Nopah.

Chanchelulla mountain, in Trinity County, also appearing on maps
as Chauchetulla and Chenche Lulla, seems to derive its name from a
Wintun source, but the etymology is unknown.

Chemehuevi valley and mountains, in eastern San Bernardino
County, are named after the Chemehuevi tribe, an offshoot of the
Southern Paiute. The meaning of their name is unknown, and its
source is also not certain, although the Mohave appear to use it not
only of the Chemehuevi but of all Paiute divisions, and may have
originated the term.

Chimiles, a land grant in Napa County, between Vacaville and
Napa city, bears a name of unidentified but possibly Indian origin.

Choenimne mountain, in Fresno County, derives its name from the
Yokuts tribe of the Choinimni, who lived on Kings River near the
mountain.

Cholame, in San Luis Obispo County, is a name of Salinan Indian
derivation. Cholam, more exactly Telola'M, also given as Tco'alam-
tram, ' ' Cholam houses " or " Cholam village, ' ' was a rancheria near
Mission San Miguel, 11 and therefore at the mouth of Estrella Creek,
as the lower course of Cholame Creek is called.

Choul mountain, in Santa Clara County, bears a name of unknown
origin.

Chowchilla River in the drainage of the San Joaquin was in its
lower course the habitat of the Chauchila tribe of the Yokuts. This
division bore a warlike reputation among neighboring groups, and its



11 Mason, present series, x, 107, 1912. The settlement known as Cholame is,
however, on the Cholame grant, which is on Cholame Creek, toward Cholame
Pass, and some distance easterly of San Miguel, so that the site of the aborig-
inal Cholam village cannot be regarded as certainly known.



1916] Kroeber: California Place Names of Indian Origin 39

name may be connected with the Yokuts verb taudja, "to kill," but
this etymology is far from certain. Yokuts Indians have at times
translated the tribal name as "murderers," but this may be an incor-
rect ex post facto etymology on their part. The Chauchila have been
referred to as a Miwok division ; but as the Miwok, in distinction from
the Yokuts, had no true tribes, it is likely that the Miwok Chauchilas
were so named by the Americans, or by English-speaking Indians, after
the name of the stream near whose upper course they live. There are
also Chowchilla Mountains in Mariposa County.

Chualar, in Monterey County, is Spanish "place of chual," or
Chenopodium album.

Cisco, in Placer County, is given by Bailey as of Indian origin, and
meaning a kind of trout. The word will be found in any modern Eng-
lish dictionary as the name of a fresh-water fish. If originally Indian,
it is not California Indian. It is also a family name.

Cleone, in Mendocino County, is probably named from Kelio, the


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