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Soap Lake eschews moniker change in committee vote

Sat., Nov. 17, 2012

Group suggests ‘Smoakiam’

OLYMPIA – Soap Lake the lake will remain Soap Lake, just like the city on its shore.

The state Committee on Geographic Names rejected a proposal Friday to return the name of the lake to the Salish language word for healing waters, Smokiam.

Keith Morehouse, a proponent of the change, said the ancestors of the Colville Confederated Tribes had called it Smokiam – pronounced either “smoak-eye-um” or “smoak-eem” – for 11,000 years.

When white settlers came, they used several names at different times, like Alkali Lake and Cottage Lake for the 900-acre body of water with high mineral content. After the town of Soap Lake incorporated, the nearby lake gradually took on the same name but was never officially changed. The name Smokiam is still used for other things, like a school and a campground; the annual parade is called Smokiam Days.

The Colville tribes, who spoke Salish, supported the name change, along with some residents interested in preserving the region’s history. The Soap Lake City Council, the Grant County commission and the Yakama Tribe, who spoke Sahaptin and had another name for the area, opposed it.

Committee member Mary Schaff commended proponents for being dedicated and passionate about the change but said the idea didn’t have enough community support. The board voted 4-1 against the change.

Morehouse later said he was disappointed the committee voted it down even though none of the opponents attended the hearing: “All the people that have been opposed to this, and no one shows up.”

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