Ex-teacher seeks support to change name of Hood Canal

She says Salish Fjord more accurately represents waterway

A local resident is looking to get endorsements from the Poulsbo City Council, local Native American tribes and other community groups or members to change the name of Hood Canal in an effort to have a name that more accurately reflects the waterway.

In a document provided to the council, Barbara Stark said Hood Canal is “clearly not a manmade waterway as canal would imply. It is a natural waterway formed by glaciers, part of the Salish Sea (recently renamed) and Puget Sound with many rivers flowing into it from the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas.”

Stark is a retired fourth-grade teacher and said the Navy brought her and her husband to Poulsbo. She wants Hood Canal to be renamed Salish Fjord, citing the culture and history of indigenous people who have been here for thousands of years.

In May 1792, Capt. George Vancouver arrived at a glacial fjord created during the Late Pleistocene approximately 13,000 years ago, Stark points out in her document. Vancouver named it “Hood’s Channel” in honor of Adm. Lord Samuel Hood of the Royal Navy but wrote “Hood Canal” on his charts. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names settled on “Hood Canal” as its official name in 1932.

Hood Canal has a mean depth of 177 feet with an average width of 1.5 miles and a shoreline of 212.9 miles. Stark said “science tells us there is no question that this body of water meets all the standards of a fjord, including that it is a long, narrow, glacier-carved waterway.” She also pointed out that fjords are rare in the United States, and Washington has one of the only fjords in North America.

“My students asked why the Hood Canal was called a canal and not a fjord as that was the true correct geographical term,” Stark’s document reads. “It is hard to explain why a mistake that is so obvious has not been corrected in all these years. Mount Rainier is not a hill, the Columbia is not a creek, the Pacific is not a lake. It is time to recognize the beauty and magnificence and uniqueness of this body of water – it is not a canal.”

The reason Stark brought this to the council is that she wants more governing bodies, agencies and organizations to support her idea so the state’s Committee on Geographic Names will take her seriously. That is the committee that would review a name change. Then it would go to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.

“I don’t think they’re going to pay any attention to me,” Stark said.

The majority of the council agreed that a name change should be explored, but they weren’t sure if Salish Fjord is the right choice. Councilmembers Ed Stern and Britt Livdahl suggested reaching out to tribes for their input.

Councilmember David Musgrove suggested finding out what the original tribal name for the waterway was, and perhaps changing it back to that. Councilmember Connie Lord said she wants to know what the potential ramifications are. She also was interested in a poll to see what the community wants.

The topic will be brought back for discussion at a future council meeting.