Indian Heaven: more about sáx̣ali-íliʔi


Must’ve smelled heavenly! “Ray M. Filloon/U.S. Forest Service. In August 1937, a woman dries huckleberries picked in the Sawtooth Berry Fields adjacent to the northern end of Indian Heaven Wilderness.” — from the article noted below

I’ve written recently that sáx̣ali-íliʔi is an old lower Columbia phrase in Chinuk Wawa for highlands, uplands, mountainous territory, uphill, and so on.

I think this is a good time to share a relatively recent newspaper article that I found: “How Did Indian Heaven in Southwest Washington Get Its Name?” by Laurie Robinson (in the Portland (OR) Oregonian of August 13, 2011).

In this article, archaeologist Rick McClure of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest affirms that

…the area was called Sahalee Illahee from the Chinook jargon, a trade language that tribes used to communicate with white people.

The name translates to something like “Up Above Land” or “Heaven Land,” a concept that was anglicized into “Indian Heaven”…

This claim makes a good deal of sense to me, and I hope to track down the source McClure was basing his explanation on. (I’ve been in contact with him and have a solid, specific lead.)

While we’re on the topic, may I share how very much I like the following fact about one place in the neighborhood:

An area in the Sawtooth Berry Fields was reserved in 1932 by a handshake agreement between Yakama Indian Chief William Yallup and Gifford Pinchot National Forest Supervisor J.R. Bruckart. Please pay close attention to signs indicating areas reserved for use by American Indians. By doing so, you are respecting the culture of another people.

What do you think?