Indigenous Place Names in the Adirondacks and Champlain Valley

Background image source: Google Earth.

Blue: Abenaki place names
Red: Mohawk place names

Many of the natural features and settlements that we know in the Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks today were also known to the Abenaki and Mohawk peoples over the centuries during which they were the dominant occupants of this landscape. While many of the original place names for this region in the Abenaki and Mohawk languages have been forgotten over centuries of indigenous cultural loss and population decline, some historical place names have been documented by historians or have remained in use among native speakers of the Abenaki and Mohawk languages. For many places for which historical names are not known, new terms have also been created over time by speakers of these languages.

Many of the known indigenous place names in the Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks refer to navigable bodies of water, major settlements, and broad geographic areas, while only one name is known to refer to a particular mountain: Tewawe’éstha, which most people know as Mount Marcy. Many people have wondered about indigenous names for Adirondack peaks, and when Ebenezer Emmons and, later, Verplanck Colvin began to name some of these peaks in the late nineteenth century, they were “in fact  criticized for naming mountains after European Americans” such as Silas Wright. Many people of their time projected Romantic ideals onto the Adirondack landscape, and wanted to believe that “features of the Adirondack landscape had once possessed authentic Indian names, even though there was absolutely no evidence that this was the case” for many locations 1 The map above, however, shows a handful of the Abenaki 2 3 and Mohawk 4 5 place names in the Adirondacks and Champlain Valley that are known today.


  1. Terrie, Contested Terrain.
  2. Day, In Search of New England’s Native Past.
  3. Prince, “Some Forgotten Indian Place-Names in the Adirondacks.”
  4. Delaronde and Engel, “Haudenosaunee Country in Mohawk.” 
  5. Personal communication, June 11 2015, Karonhí:io Delaronde