Map Shows Native American Translations of 27 U.S. State Names

In America, street, city, and state names often reflect the Native American cultures that lived there before colonial settlers, yet this heritage is often ignored or completely forgotten. Now, we call Iowa the Hawkeye State or Kansas the Sunflower State, but these state names have a rich and unique history all their own. From Apache to Cherokee, Choctaw to Sioux, many states derived their names from Native American tribes and dialects, each with a symbolic meaning.

This infographic, created by Column Five, shows the Native American root meanings of 27 state names, as well as the tribe and dialect the name came from. These names reveal interesting insights into the geographic area represented, as well as the cultures that named them.

Some are named after the geography. Hence, we see Wyoming, named by the Lenape tribe, translates to “by the big flat river.” And Kentucky, named by the Iroquois, translates to “meadow land.” But others reflect the people who live there. Missouri, named by the Missouria, translates to “big canoe people.” It’s a fascinating look at the country’s true roots.


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