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Dear Watchers:

I thank Mr. Richardson for his correction and comments on my recent article on the Nooksack River. His comments are always welcome, as he is an authority on Nooksack language, and literally wrote a book on the subject, as well as an historical article.

Concerning his first comment, he is quite correct in pointing out that Salish is not a specific language, but rather a group of related languages. Although I am aware of this, I did inadvertently leave off the “s” from Language(s) that failed to make Salish a plural when referring to it as a language group.

Concerning my use of Komo(a) Kulshan in reference to Mt. Baker, I will assume that that he is technically correct. My reading of numerous historical accounts of this mountain shows that Kulshan has long been the most popular and commonly-used term for the mountain. And, as he points out, many writers note that there are varied terms for the mountain and for various geological aspects of it. I chose to use the more popular term as it is used by dozens of local clubs and societies, a brewery, and even an early steamship.

Kulshan has also been used by local historians for the past hundred-plus years, such as Lottie Roeder Roth’s “History of Whatcom County,” (1926); Dorothy Koert and Galen Biery, “Looking Back” (1980); John Miles, “Koma Kulshan” (1984); and P.R. Jeffcott, Whatcom County pioneer, educator, author and historian of the Whatcom County Pioneer Association. In his book, “Nooksack: Tales and Trails,” published in 1949, Jeffcott, using native speakers as his sources, described some background similar to what Mr. Richardson noted in his letter. Jeffcott wrote: “KUL – SHAN – a scar or mark of severe injury, a bleeding wound: applied to Mt. Baker by the Lummi Indians probably had its origin in some long-ago eruption when the fire suggested fancied bleeding of the mountains.” (Page 56.) This concept is often mentioned by most writers on this topic.

For an interesting and more extensive history of this term, I found the following post very informative:

Again, I thank Mr. Richardson for this commentary here, as such discussion is always illuminating. Further, I would invite him to share his extensive knowledge of local native lore and linguistics with Whatcom Watch readers by submitting an article.

Ron Kleinknecht

 P.R. Jeffcott, (1949) “Nooksack: Tales and Trails,” Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, Washington.

 Dorothy Koert and Galan Biery, (1980) “Looking Back,” Lynden Tribune, Lynden, Washington.

 John Miles, (1984) “Koma Kulshan: The Story of Mt. Baker.” Mountaineers Books, Seattle, Washington.

 Lottie Roeder Roth, (1926) “History of Whatcom County, Vol 1.” Pioneer Historical Publishing Co. Chicago – Seattle.

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