We Wear Our Name Proudly
By Cecilia Svinth Carpenter 9-18-1993
“Origin of the name Nisqually”
The word Squalli is the Nisqually Indian name for the prairie grass that once grew in abundance on the Nisqually Plains.
Our river took its name from the prairie grass and became the Squalli River. An Indian place name usually always describes a geographical feature of the area.
Our Indian people who have for centuries lived along the Squalli River on the vast prairie lands called themselves The Squalli-absch, the People of the Grass Country, the People of the River. (The ending “absch” means “the people of”.)
In 1833 when the people of the Hudson’s Bay Company established their fur-gathering fort near the mouth of the Nisqually River, they named their fort after our people and added the prefix “Nes” to our name. They called us the Nesqualli.
Later, when the American settlers came into our country, the spelling of the prefix was changed to “Nis.” Somewhere along the way the “i” at the end of our name was changed to a “y” so that today we are known as the Nisqually.
However, in the hearts and minds of our people, we are still The Squalli-absch, the People of the Grass Country, the People of the River. The bond that was formed many centuries past continues to remain firmly intact today – the land, the river, our people – a bond of lasting respect and concern for each other.
Today, when we hear the word Nisqually, whether it is to designate our tribe, a river basin, a fort, a town or a newspaper, our thoughts stand at attention as we remember that for which it stands. WE WEAR OUR NAME PROUDLY!