Renaming Harney Channel | Letter

I live on Harney Channel. I have often wondered about the source of that name. After researching this, I found that the channel is named after General William S. Harney. Before the Civil War, Harney was the Commander of the Department of Oregon and in charge of America’s holdings in all of the Pacific Northwest. He directed the US response to the Pig War on San Juan Island and visited these islands at that time.

Harney is most well known for the massacre of hundreds of Native Americans including women and children during the “American Indian Wars.” At that time the natives called him Mad Bear.

Native Americans in the Dakotas campaigned to change the name of Harney Peak, near Wounded Knee and near the site of some of Harney’s worst atrocities, to Black Elk Peak in 2016.

Needless to say, it is a controversial topic.

I think that Harney Channel should be renamed to either its original Native American name or to a name chosen by the elders of the local tribes. No doubt, there are other names in the San Juan Islands that should be changed.

When I first came to the islands I never heard the area waters referred to as the Salish Sea, a name honoring the Coastal Salish tribes. Now it is known as the Salish Sea on virtually all sources of information. Why not do the same with Harney Channel?

Jeff Quinn

Orcas