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Thread: What's in a name?

  1. #1
    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    Default What's in a name?

    Growing up as kid in Kenai, the road along the south side of the lower river was always called Kalifonsky (emphatically no "R" in the spelling). I remember how my sixth grade teacher at Kenai Elementary, Mrs Besch, frequently bemoaned the daily commute upriver to Soldotna and back downriver on the other side of the Kenai River. Back then there was no Warren Ames Bridge in Kenai. I used to think how funny she sounded when she said "K.... Beach Road" in her adorable southern accent.

    About a decade ago (hey maybe more) the signage along the new and improved widened thoroughfare changed the spelling to Kalifornsky (addition of the goofy "R"). I've always wondered what's that all about? Did someone at DOT screw up? But as the years went by, the signs stayed and proliferated with the new and improved spelling.

    Finally googled it today and this is what I found... a bit of a neat local history lesson.

    History and culture[edit]

    The place name Kalifonsky (omitting the letter r) was noted in 1916 by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, with its etymology attributed to an Indian word kali meaning "fishermen."[3]
    However, this place name appears to have been due to a mistaken transcription[4] of the village name Kalifornsky, which took its name from the surname of the village's founder, a Dena'inaIndian named Qadanalchen (meaning "acts quickly" in the Outer Inlet dialect of the Dena'ina language). Qadanalchen had worked at the Russian American colony of Fort Ross in California from about 1812 to about 1821. On his return to Alaska, Qadanalchen took the name Kalifornsky,[5] the Russian equivalent of "Californian."[6]
    Qadanalchen's great-great-grandson, the self-taught Dena'ina writer and ethnographer Peter Kalifornsky (1911–1993) was born in Kalifornsky village,[7] which used to lie about 10 miles south of Kenai and about 4 miles north of the mouth of the Kasilof River.
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  2. #2
    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Kalifonski: locality, summer pop. only on W coast of Kenai Penin., S of Kenai Cook Inlet Low.; 60 25 N, 151 17 W; BGN 1916; (map 62).
    Tanaina Indian village reported in 1916 by USC&GS. The name may be derived from the "Kali (fisherman)" clan of Tanaina Indians, with a Russian Termination.

    Kalifonski Beach: beach [...]
    Local name published in 1958 by USGS; derived from village of Kalifonski.
    From: the Dictionary of Alaska Place Names, Geological Survey Professional Paper 567, by Donald J. Orth, 1967

    There is no "Kalifornski" referenced in the above document.
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  3. #3
    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    Doc, here's your man:

    Initiator of Kalifornsky name change with Alaska State Board of Geographic Names, 1976-80 (with Peter Kalifornsky) “The Kalifornskys from Cook Inlet.” Lecture to the Fort Ross Interpretive Association, Fort Ross, California. 1979

    http://www.uaf.edu/files/anlc/kari2012cv.pdf
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    Supporting Member iofthetaiga's Avatar
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    So here's my question: When did the 'i' get changed to a 'y'?

    The original place name appears to have legitimately been Kalifonski. It seems to have originated as a fish camp, occupied only in summer. 'Fonski' is a Russian surname and it seems quite plausible that the original name Kalifonski is correct, given the occupants of the area circa 1900. The variant "Kalifonsky" does not appear in records until much later, which would seem to discredit the Wiki allegation that "Kalifonsky" was simply a mistaken transcription of "Kalifornsky", as the "Kalifornskys from Cook Inlet” would appear to be johnny-come-lately's...
    ...he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. ~Thomas Jefferson
    I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief. ~Gerry Spence
    The last thing Alaska needs is another bigot. ~member Catch It
    #Resist

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