A muddy stream that flows through southern Spokane County is officially Latah Creek, at least as far as county government is concerned.
Without comment, county commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday ordering the use of that name in all county documents that mention the creek. Some county documents already read Latah, but others call the stream Hangman Creek.
That confusion reflects widespread disagreement over the name of the creek.
Many people who live along its bank call the stream Hangman, the name that appears on maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. The name dates back to 1858, when several Native Americans were hanged along the creek.
A growing number of people, Commissioner John Roskelley among them, dislike the name’s bloody origins. They prefer the name Latah, which is what Native Americans called the stream.
The resolution also asks the U.S. Board of Geographic Names to decree that the stream’s name is Latah. The board already made that decision, in 1904, but reversed itself in 1959 because use of the name Hangman was widespread.
Despite the commissioners’ decision, golfers will still tee off at Hangman Valley Golf Course, where a slice sends balls into Latah Creek.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
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