Wednesday, November 21, 2018

What's in a Name?

The Forgotten River’s forgotten people
In 1608, John Smith commissioned a map of an eastern tributary of the Potomac River. At the time, the area was populated by sturgeon, ducks, deer and the thriving Nacotchtank tribe. It was an ideal region for Europeans to settle in, and they soon took control of the land and game.

The Nacotchtank tribe, whom the Europeans referred to as “Nacostine,” then adding the prefix A to get “Anacostine,” retreated to what is now Roosevelt Island and quietly faded over time. All that remains is the region and river that bears their name, so far anglicized as to be unrecognizably linked to these riverside peoples: Anacostia. The tribe is now officially extinct.

Today the Anacostia River and its surrounding neighborhoods are on the “wrong side” of the D.C. area. The area covers wards 7 and 8, areas overwhelmingly underserved, more ethnically diverse and less affluent compared to most of D.C. In 2016, the radio program “Anacostia Unmapped” brought light to this issue with the story of a map drawn to show rental prices in the D.C. area. The Virginia suburbs of Arlington and Alexandria were included in the map, while the neighborhoods directly in the D.C. area on the other side of the Anacostia were erased.

Jason Anderson is a descendent of the Nacotchtank tribe and current resident of Anacostia who voiced his story on the “The Settler and the Map” episode of Anacostia Unmapped. “When native indigenous people are removed from their land, mass murdered, gentrified, eliminated,” explained Anderson, “Elders and shamans of the tribe would use ritual to assign missions to certain spirits to represent what was lost, to hold up their legacy and remember. I am the manifestation of some of those prayers and rituals that were conducted during our extermination.”
I've seen old maps that actually referred to the Anacostia as the Eastern  Branch. 

It probably was't a good neighborhood back then either, due to malaria:

Estimated Malaria Risks of Counties in the 1850s

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