Relics of a vanished language – Carolina Algonquian

Among the languages current in North America when Sir Walter Raleigh was exploring around was Carolina Algonquian. Raleigh assigned scientist Thomas Harriet to study and learn the language, which is related to the also-extinct Powhatan or Virginia Algonquian. Although the language has long since vanished, it left behind some very recognizable traces, specifically:

  • moccasin,
  • moose
  • opossum
  • papoose
  • pecan
  • raccoon
  • skunk
  • squash
  • squaw
  • wigwam


The word “squaw” has an entire Wikipedia article devoted to it; once popular in English during the “cowboys and indians” days, the word has come to be regarded as highly offensive among many Native Americans, although not for reasons popularly believed. I recommend a reading of the referenced article if you’re interested in learning more.

On the general subject, I happened across this map over at Maps on the Web:



It tells a pretty accurate story of how the United States government dealt with the autochthonous population over the years. A more detailed and animated story can be found at a previous blog post I wrote about the Thunder Mountain Monument.

As a nation, we owe much to our native population beyond a debt of gratitude for words contributed to English, but have paid them only in extermination and misery. I’m still at a loss as to what the right thing to do is, today, in the 21st Century; what I do know is that “nothing” is not the right answer.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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