Indigenous Toponyms in New York, across America

Though the indigenous peoples of the American colonies were pushed off of their land throughout the history of the United States, indigenous names proliferate throughout the North American continent. In his New Yorker essay “How New York was Named”, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro discusses the indigenous toponyms of America’s cities, states, and landmarks. Dialects of Lenape, Algonquian, and many other North American languages (which at one point made up a quarter of the world’s languages) are featured throughout the essay, as are the modern language centers founded to preserve the culture and language of the people behind these names.

Jelly-Schapiro is also the author of Names of New York: Discovering the City’s Past, Present, and Future Through Its Place-Names (Pantheon, 2021), from which the essay is adapted.

Additionally, the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University will be hosting Jelly-Schapiro for a book talk at 6:30 pm on Thursday, May 13, 2021. Click here for more information on that talk.