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  • Fred

Utqiagvik (?)

This link came up on my Facebook news feed and I was curious: I wonder if they're talking about Barrow? I clicked on the link and found out that I was wrong, it's Utqiagvik. Utqiagvik? I'm not familiar with Utqiagvik. So I looked up the city on Wikipedia and found out that Utqiagvik IS Barrow.

What kind of chicanery is CNN trying to pull? Well, for once CNN is just reporting the news. Back in 1959, Alaska became a state and one of the first cities to incorporate after statehood was Barrow.

Barrow had been an American Outpost since 1901 when a post office was built there. But apparently, before 1901, the location was home to the Iñupiat people, an indigenous Inuit ethnic group, for over a thousand years.

So in 2016, the population of 4,300 (or so) voted to return the name of the city to its original moniker, Utqiagvik, by a vote of 381 to 375. Why didn't I notice the vote? It happened right before the contentious 2016 Trump/Clinton election.

I'm a little soft on my Alaskan politics, but is this happening all over Alaska? Not to my knowledge, but it's not the first time I've heard this type of story.

Back in the year 1999, for all essential purposes, the Northwest Territories in Canada were split into half. Mostly English speakers in the West continued to be the Northwest Territories and the mostly Inuktitut speakers in the East became the Territory of Nunavut. Now Frobisher Bay was just another northern Canadian outpost until 1987 when the townspeople decided to change their city's name back to the traditional name of Iqaluit. In 1995, it was agreed that Iqaluit would be the capital of the new territory.

Now Frobisher Bay was named after Martin Frobisher who got lost looking for a Northwest passage to China about 400 years earlier.

Barrow, Alaska was named after Sir John Barrow, who had never been to Barrow, but was a great promoter of Arctic Voyages. Even though these are only limited cases, I think that these examples may pave the way for more name changes on the continent in the future. Back to traditional Native-American designations.

Why? Let's take a quick geography test. What is the tallest mountain in North America? If you said Mount McKinley, you are wrong. That same mountain had been known as Denali for hundreds of years. The U.S. Government assigned the name Mount McKinley to the mountain in 1917. The name stood for nearly a century until President Obama returned the peak to its original moniker in 2015. Do yourself a favor and DON'T google Obama and Anti-Colonialism. That is a dry, dry read.


Don't know why the Barrow name change is even bothering me. It's not like the eskimos....

Ugh, I just learned that the word eskimo is offensive. I guess we need to stick with Inuit.

It's not like Inuits are going to rise up and start a revolution.

If you look on the other side of the world, things are really percolating on the Ukrainian-Russian border. Look in Ukraine, there's a ton of city name changes in the past century. Maybe in my head, name changes are a symbol of upheaval. Go ahead and cross the border into Russia where there's literally hundreds of city name changes since the 1917 Russian Revolution.

St. Petersburg, Russia, for example, can trace its roots back into the early 1700's. In 1914, the name of the city was changed from St. Petersburg to Petrograd. Ten years later, Petrograd became Leningrad. And after perestroika, Leningrad's name returned to St. Petersburg.

I don't want politics to dictate the name of the city in which I live.


Back in the early 1970's, I used to go camping on my Great-Grandparent's farmland in Russia, Ohio. Population 420, in the southwestern section of the state, my Grandmother would scold me, it's not

RUSSIA, it's ROO-shee. She told me some people in town wanted to change the name of the city, (it was the depths of the Cold War), but she was prophetic in saying that the Cold War wouldn't last forever.

I haven't been back to Russia since my Grandmother passed away. Since her death, the population has spiked to nearly 700 people. I'd show you a picture of the old farm, but Russia doesn't even have a street view on GoogleMaps.

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