1890+: Washington was “The Chinook State”, and should be again!

Our motto was always the Chinook “Alki” (áɬqi, ‘in the future; bye and bye; eventually; mañana; just you wait and see’)…

…and at the beginning of statehood, we were nicknamed “The Chinook State”.

If you grew up here as I did, that’s probably surprising news, as we’re taught that the state is “The Evergreen State”.

But within a year of transitioning from territory status to statehood on November 11, 1889, we find “Chinook State” only.

The “Sage of Baltimore”, HL Mencken, noted in his “The American Language” that “Chinook State” seemed to be in more frequent use than “Evergreen State”. 

Some sources at the time attribute the moniker to the famous warm westerly Chinook wind, others to the well-known Native nation or to the large species of salmon. I suspect that the multiplicity of culturally relevant associations reinforced the popularity of “Chinook State”. 

chinook state

(Image credit: Santa Fe (NM) Daily New Mexican of January 24, 1890, page 2, column 1)

There was plenty of popular newspaper reporting about the oddities of state nicknames, including Montana’s (The Stubbed-Toe State) and South Dakota’s (The Swinge-Cat State). 

I think a return to “Chinook State” would make for a more memorable and unique name than “Evergreen State”.

It would also honor one of the most historically important Indigenous groups of this place.

What do you think?