(WHTM) Earlier today the Vatican announced it has officially repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery, a series of Papal Bulls from the 15th and 16th Century giving religious, political, and legal justifications for colonization and seizure of land not inhabited by Christians.

This included the Americas, of course. When William Penn arrived in 1682, the primary tribes he encountered, and negotiated land purchases with, were the Lenape, Susquehannock, Shawnee, and Iroquois.

After Penn’s death, things got nasty between the Europeans and the tribes. The Lenape, Shawnee, and Iroquois were shoved out of Pennsylvania. The Susquehannock are extinct; after a series of migrations and reversals of fortune (including losing a war with the Iroquois) the remnants of the tribe, renamed the Conestoga, settled in Lancaster County. On December 27, 1763, the last 14 Conestoga Indians were murdered by the Paxton Boys.

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But while the tribes have moved elsewhere, they did leave something behind-place names, and a lot of them. LancasterHistory.org has in its online offerings an article by M. Luther Heisey (1882-1964), longtime editor of the Lancaster County Historical Society, entitled INDIAN NAMES OF LOCAL INTEREST WITH THEIR ORIGIN AND MEANING.

Here are some of the names on his list; it’s worth noting some of them have several different translations, and he cites the sources of these.

Accomac, signifies “on the other side,” or “the other side land.” A Nanticoke name. Another definition is “across the water.” The first would apply to Accomac of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, “on the other side” of Chesapeake Bay, while the latter would apply to our local Accomac, “across the water” from the present site of Marietta, Pa.

Chesapeake, “the place where there is a great body of still water stretched out.” Or “superior saltish bay.”

Chikisalunga is supposed to mean “place of crabs, or crab-fish,” or “the creek on which the ground is full of holes made by the crab-fish.” Or, “long piece of land where rabbits burrow.” (Boyd) See Salunga.

Cocalico, “where snakes gather together in holes or dens” to pass the winter. (Boyd) or, Achgookwalico in the Delaware tongue. Some pronounce it Co’co-LEEK’-o to preserve the Indian sound; others (most natives) pronounce it Co-CAL-ico.

Codorus means “rapid water.” Iroquois. (Con attached to the names of so many streams in Pennsylvania is a perversion of an Indian word signifying “long.”)

Conejohela (present site of Long Level) derives its name from “a kettle on a long upright object,” or some say, “at the place of the boiling kettle.” Or, guneu-long, and gehilla-banks or
bluffs; probably signifying extensive bluffs (D. H. Landis).

Conestoga derived from Kanastoge, “at the place of the immersed pole.” (Hewitt). Or, Andastoegue, “people of the cabin pole,” or, “a pine tree standing alone.” Iroquois.
-French form Gantastogues or Andastogues.-Hanna, “The Wilderness Trail,” p. 35.
-In Indian language, “Crooked Creek,” E&E 687. (Martha Jenkins Nevin.)
-Corruption of Canastagiowne (Iroquois), meaning “THE GREAT MAGIC LAND.” (Boyd). This is our preference.

Conewago, “long strip,” or “long reach.” (Boyd) -Or “at the rapids.”

Conococheague, meaning “indeed a long journey.” Rupp’s 30,000 Names, p. 17.

Conodoguinet, corrupted from Gunnipduckhannet, signifying “for a long way nothing but bends.” (D. H. Landis.)

Conowingo, corrupted from Guneunga, meaning “he stays long,” Iroquois. (D. H. Landis.)

Dekanoagah, or Conejoholo, Indian site near Washington Boro (D. H. Landis). Fishing Creek, in Delaware Indian language called Namees-hanna, “fish stream; or Naumeshauna. (D. H. Landis.)

Iroquois, a name given to a tribe originally known as “Iriakhoiw,” meaning “real adders,” or “snakes.” (Cadzow.)

Lenape, from the Lenni-Lennape, or Delaware Indians, meaning, “the native genuine men,” or “the first or original people.” Another meaning is “Indians of the same nation.” (Zeisberger.)

Mingo or Minquas, an Algonquian word meaning stealthy, treacherous. Susquehanna Iroquois were Minquas.

Monody, branch of Swatara Creek, corrupted from Menatey, signifying “an island.” (D. H. Landis.)

Octoraro, Iroquois word corrupted from Ottohohalo, signifying “where persons were.” Written Otteraroe (D. H. Landis.) Magee says the Octoraro were a sub-tribe of either the Shawanese or
Delaware Indians.

Octoraro, “rushing water.” (Wilmer MacElree.) Iroquoian.

Paxtang, corrupted from Peshtang or Peekstank, signifying “where the waters stand,” or “the place of still water,” whether in a stream, pool or lake. (D. H. Landis.)

Paxton, “place of standing or dead water.”

Pequea is corrupted from Picueu, a Shawanese word. In early records it is spelled Pequehan and Peckquea. Pronounced Peckway.

Pequea, from “Piqua,” the name of a band of Shawanese Indians who once inhabited the valley of the Pequea. (Gannett.)
Pequea, the name of an eastern township, from which the Pequea Creek flows in a southwesterly direction to Pequea post office on the Susquehanna River, in Martic Township.

Pequehan is an Indian village at the mouth of the Pequea Creek.

Quitopahieta or Quitopohella, “a spring that issues out of the earth where there are pine trees standing.”

Salunga, part of the Indian word, “chickiswalunga,” “place of crawfish.”

Shawanee signifies “the southerners,” a name given to an Indian tribe which migrated to the Delaware Valley, from their original home in the valley of the Savannah River.

Susquehanna (Sasque-sa-han-ocke-a) meaning the Brook-streamland-ers, or The Spring-water-stream-region-people (Prof. A. L. Guss in Historical Register, January 1883, vol. 1, No. 1).
Susquehanna in the Onondaga dialect was called “Gawanowananeh,” interpreted as “great island river.”
Susquehanna, “the river of springs,” Iroquois. (D. H. Landis.)
Susquehanna, properly Sisquehanne, from sisku, “mud, and hanne,” a river (Heckewelder). Or it means “the long crooked river,” to phrase it most poetically, “the river of the winding shore.”

Swatara, Iroquois word, corrupted from Swahadowry or Schahadawa, meaning “where we fed on eels.” Also written Esturara and Swataro. (Don’t believe anyone who says Swatara is an Irish word, named for a place in Northern Ireland, or that it means “Sweet Arrow.” Bosh.)

Tamaqua is derived from “tamaque,” Delaware Indian word for beaver.

Tamaquehan, the “beaver stream.” The Indian name for Beaver Creek.

Tangitamaquehanna, Indian name for Little Beaver Creek.

Tucquan, “pduck-hanne,” meaning “winding stream.”

Tulpehocken or Tulpewihaki, signifies “the land of turtles.” An abundance of turtles along the Tulpehocken Creek.

Wiconisco, corrupted from Wikenkniskeu, signifying “a wet and muddy camp.”

Wyomissing, said to mean “place of flats.”

Heisey ended his list, most appropriately, with a couple of lines (slightly altered) from the poem “Indian Names” by Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791–1865):


You can read Heisey’s entire article here.

You can read Lydia Sigourney’s poem in its entirety here.