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Marci Sischo | 11/11/2021 | Biking, Hiking, Historic Places, History, Outdoor Recreation

10 Creeks Around Marys Peak Have Been Named to Honor the Mountain's Importance in Indigenous Culture

Marys Peak soars above Corvallis, Philomath, and the heart of the Willamette Valley, the tallest peak in the Coast Range at 4,097 feet. She's a well-known landmark in our area and her distinctive shape adorns murals, t-shirts, pieces of art, logos, and more.

But Marys Peak is more than just a pretty mountain on our western skyline. The indigenous peoples of the Willamette Valley area revere Marys Peak and call her tcha Timanwi, which means "place of spiritual power." The peak is sacred to the native Kalapuya, featuring as a place of refuge and perseverance in their ancestral stories.

In 2016, Dave Eckert, president of the Marys Peak Alliance, began looking into naming one of the creeks running through the Marys Peak watershed. That inquiry eventually led to a collaboration with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians to name ten of the creeks running through the area. Each of the new names are of historic or cultural importance to the native peoples of our area - some are characters in important stories, some are places names or the names of peoples.

The creeks' names are Ahngeengeen (Flint), Ahnhoots (the Panther), Ahntkwahkwah (the Frog), Ahshahyum (the Grizzly), Ahmoolint Creek (the Wolf), Ahsney Creek (the Coyote), Pa’wint Creek (cinnamon bear), Lo wa’ ha yu (which refers to Marys Peak as the highest mountain in the surrounding watersheds), Wusi’n (which is the name the Alsea people call themselves), and Yaqo’n (which is the name the Yaquina people called themselves).

At the moment most of these creeks are difficult to reach and unmarked, but the Marys Peak Alliance and other organizations are working on signage and other options to address that. 

1. Waters of the People

"It was from [this meeting] that the decision was finalized to have the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians name 10 previously unnamed creeks on Marys Peak. 6 of the creeks on the east side of the mountain were given Kalapuya names by Grand Ronde, and 4 of the creeks on the west side of the mountain were given Wusi'n and Yaqo'n names by Siletz."

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2. Links to Native Past and Present: Ten Creeks on Marys Peak Have New Names

"Indigenous people have revered 4,097-foot-high Marys Peak in Benton County for millennia. The Marys Peak watershed boundaries of the Marys, Yaquina, and Alsea Rivers have served as linguistic, cultural, and homeland borders among the Kalapuya, Wusi’n (Alsea), and Yaqo’n (Yaquina) people. Today, the peak remains culturally significant to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde."

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3. Marys Peak Creek Naming Honors the Indigenous Heritage of the Willamette Valley

"Fast forward to 2016, when a City of Corvallis-led watershed tour of a separate area highlighted a number of unnamed creeks with opportunity for naming. Marys Peak Alliance (a volunteer-run advocacy group) President Dave Eckert was on that tour and inquired about naming one of the creeks through a collaborative effort with the Confederated Tribes. Working with Harrelson, the duo spurred further momentum for the tribal community to name 10 creeks within the Marys Peak area as tribute to the inherent importance of the land."

Read more.

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