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How Tacoma Got Its Name?


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The Native American Origin

The beautiful city of Tacoma, Washington, has a rich history that dates back many centuries. Its name holds significant meaning and is deeply rooted in the culture of the Puyallup Tribe of Native Americans. In their native Lushootseed language, Tacoma, or more accurately, “Tacobet,” means “Mother of the Waters.” This term was originally used to refer to Mount Rainier, the majestic stratovolcano that dominates the city's skyline.

Transition from Mount Tahoma to Tacoma

For many years, the city was known as Commencement Bay, a name given by British explorer Captain George Vancouver in 1792. However, the city's moniker was changed as settlers started to arrive and establish their communities. They wanted a name that connected more closely with the geography and culture of the area.

Mount Rainier was initially referred to as Mount Tahoma by the early settlers, borrowing from the Native American name. However, over time, the name was anglicized and modified to Tacoma. The name Tacoma first began to gain popularity in the mid-19th century, and was officially adopted by the city in 1868.

Tacoma's Naming Controversy

The decision to rename the city was not without controversy. In the mid-to-late 19th century, there was a heated debate between residents who wanted to name the city Tacoma and those who wanted to keep the name Commencement Bay. The Tacoma advocates argued that the name was more representative of the local culture, and it also had a more romantic and exotic appeal to outsiders.

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Despite the controversy, the Tacoma advocates won the debate. On November 12, 1875, the Washington Territorial Legislature officially incorporated Tacoma, leaving the name Commencement Bay behind forever.

The Legacy of Tacoma's Name

The name Tacoma now stands as a proud symbol of the city's rich cultural heritage and stunning natural beauty. It is a constant reminder of the city's connection to the Native American tribes who first called this land home. Furthermore, Tacoma's unique name sets it apart in a country where many cities have names that are borrowed from other places around the world.

Today, the city of Tacoma continues to honor its name and its Native American roots. The city has numerous parks, monuments, and buildings named after the Puyallup Tribe, serving as a tribute to the people who gave Tacoma its meaningful and beautiful name.

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