On our recent trip across the country we spent a lovely morning walking with a dear friend along the shore of Lake Huron. I remembered that an old song about a shipwreck* gave a native name for Lake Superior (Gitche Gumee, from Chipewa), and I wondered about the name origins of the other Great Lakes.†
Lake Huron, it turns out, shows up on a map from 1656 as Karegnondi, but later French maps tended to call it Lac des Hurons, for the Huron people living along its shores. At times called both Lake of the Stinking Water and Lake of the Puants (a First Nation people), Lake Michigan comes from an Indian term for “the water,” Michi gami. Lake Ontario traces back to an Iroquois word meaning “beautiful lake.” Erie also comes from Iroquois, an abbreviation of Erielhonan, “long tail.”
There’s bound to be more to learn about the lakes and their First Nation names, but we’re moving on to the picture portion of the post, El Guapo’s handiwork.
*Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a ballad that has stuck with me for decades. You can listen to it here, with lyrics.
†Here’s my source material.
[Images: El Guapo (map from Wikipedia)]