Preface and Acknowledgments
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vii Preface and Acknowledgments The state of Mississippi is often described as possessing an unrivaled “sense of place,” and it is undeniable that Mississippi’s reputation for cultural distinctiveness is abundantly justified. A very significant contributor to Mississippi’s strong atmosphere of local color is the state’s large stock of Native American place names. Although all fifty states feature indigenous place names, Mississippi’s inventory is among the largest. The state’s geography is thoroughly permeated by these toponyms, indelibly attached as they are to hundreds of locations, from large cities and rivers to tiny rural communities and creeks. More than a dozen Mississippi counties bear Indian names, and the appellation Mississippi itself is of Indian origin. American Indian names provide much of the richness of the cultural landscape,asanydiscerningtravelerthroughMississippiisaware.However, the origins and meanings of those names are lost on most, Mississippians and visitors alike. The predominant lack of public awareness of the subject is reflected by Mississippi writer Willie Morris’s apt characterization of the state’s Indian place names, in his book My Mississippi, as “the mysterious, lost euphonious litany” (Morris , p. ). This air of mystery is understandable : over the years, few books have been published that include the subject of Mississippi’s Indian geographic names to any extent; moreover, most of them are of decidedly uneven reliability, and none treats the matter in depth. These books have by default been influential in shaping popular perceptions, because most of the past scholarly research on the topic has been unavailable to a wide readership, being largely confined to small-circulation journals and unpublished manuscripts. As a result, of the transla- viii tions that have managed to diffuse into the public’s imagination, many are wholly erroneous, the consequence of the uncritical repetition of incorrect notions introduced long ago. In an effort to counteract the too-prevalent misunderstanding of the subject, I have assembled this book, which is the first published work dealing exclusively with Mississippi’s Native American place names. It is intended to meet the longstanding need for a comprehensive reference resource on the topic, which has long been of broad but mostly unsatisfied public interest. Except for my own attempts to decipher some names (mostly of smaller creeks) for which no other recorded interpretations apparently exist, the majority of the translations presented herein (about  percent) are not new; this book is largely a compilation of previous work. The comparative analysis, however, is original; it has enabled me to correct some obvious or probable errors made by earlier researchers, and to select the most credible alternatives for those names with more than one interpretation. To this end, I have attempted to collect and evaluate all available previous translations of each name, which entails extensive citation of sources, to a degree that might seem obsessive to the casual reader. However, specific source presentation is essential for the thorough tracing of the origins of place name translations in the literature, a procedure intended to make this book of interest not only to general readers, but also to specialists in such fields as anthropology, history, and geography. In addition to the main entries of place names and their translations, a bonus feature of this book consists of side boxes headed “The Native American Connection,” which present Indian history, legends, and myths associated with various towns, communities, streams, and other sites in Mississippi that bear indigenous names. I am indebted to a number of individuals and institutions for providing me with the inspiration and assistance that enabled me to conceive and complete this book. My interest in the subject of Native American place names was initially kindled when I was a graduate student in anthropology and geography at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, where I also worked as the graduate assistant of Professor Robert W. Neuman, then the curator of anthropology in LSU’s Museum of Geoscience (now Preface and Acknowledgments ix the Museum of Natural Science). One of the tasks Professor Neuman assigned me was to indicate, on one of the museum’s reference sets of U.S. Geological Survey maps of Louisiana, all the Indian geographical names printed thereon, using as my guide his well-worn copy of William A. Read’s  monograph, Louisiana Place-Names of Indian Origin. Later, as an archaeologist with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, I worked nearly every day with one of the department’s own reference sets of over eight hundred USGS maps covering Mississippi. As a result...