Alaska History Footnotes: Sumdum Glacier
An irregular series of historical footnotes that were overlooked in your Alaska history class.
There are real life examples of this effect all over Interior Alaska. In Athabascan, the Alaska Native language family in the Interior, “Na” means river. “Tanana” means “Tana River,” for example. So the English Tanana River translates as “Tana River River.”
WC is deeply suspicious of Southeast Alaska’s Sumdum Glacier for exactly these reasons. “What’s that glacier?” “Oh, some dumb glacier.” It’s true that Donald Orth, in his great Dictionary of Alaska Place Names (Amazon link), reports, “Tlingit Indian name reportedly representing the booming sound of icebergs as they break off the glacier.” Sure, Don. And that explains Sumdum Island and Sumdum Mountain? WC thinks Don Orth is having a little fun with his readers.
WC prefers to believe it’s the Pratchett Effect.