Q'in Tetli
Photo: Q'in Tetl'i
"exploded fish egg"
(by A. Berez)

Dena'ina Placenames

The history of Dena'ina territory and geography is embodied in the Native names for places. All of the important places--rivers, lakes, mountains, lookouts, campsites, small creeks and ponds--have Dena'ina names that were learned by actual experience and memorization. These placenames are an oral tradition, not a written tradition.

In the Athabascan languages, we find that the oral place names are conservative (that is, people usually agree on the names, and the names seem to be hundreds, if not thousands, of years old), and places are almost never named after people. More than two thousand Dena'ina placenames have been documented through the work of linguist James Kari and Dena'ina language experts. A few important names are listed here.

Some of the sites below also have photographs available for viewing. Click on the site names to view the photos. Some of the sites also have audio clips, so you can hear the names being pronounced.

Maps and place names information for the Outer Inlet (Kenai) dialect are available on Dena'ina Territory and Place Names of the Kahtnuht'ana Qenaga site.

If you have photos of places listed here, or would like to see other placenames listed here, please send an email to denaina.qenaga [at] gmail.com or use the Feedback form.

Inland Dialect

Dena'ina Listen English Literal Meaning
K'qizaghetnu Hdakaq'   Stony River village 'distant river mouth'
Htsit   Tishimna Lake site 'lowland place'
Hek'dichen Hdakaq'   Lime Village, mouth of Hungry Creek 'abundance mouth"
(speaker: Pete Bobby)
Canyon site 'current flows through'
Dilah Vena   Telaquana Lake village '(fish) swim in-lake'
Vałts'anaq'   Mulchatna villages '? stream'
Qizhjeh   Kijik Village 'place people gathered on the run'
Nuvendaltun, Nundaltin   Nondalton, Sixmile Lake 'lake extends across'
Łiq'a Qilanhtnu   Tlikakila River 'stream where salmon are'

Iliamna Dialect

Dena'ina Listen English Literal Meaning
Nughiltnu   Newhalen River 'flows-down river'
Nughilen   Newhalen 'flows-down river'
Chix Kaq'
(speaker: Nick Kolyaha)
Chekok 'ochre mouth'
  Pedro Bay village  
(speaker: Walter Johnson)
Iliamna Lake 'islands lake'
Tus Nuch'k'elyasht   Iliamna Portage to Cook Inlet 'pass where we carry things back'
Vighutiztin Hkayitaghi'u   Lonesome Bay village 'trail along it bay'
Tsayehtnu Hdakaq'   Pile Bay village 'cave river mouth'
Nuch'ak'dalitnu   Old Iliamna 'things come out again river'

Outer Inlet Dialect

Dena'ina Listen English Literal Meaning
Tikahtnu   Cook Inlet 'big water river
Yaghenen   Peninsula 'good land'
Kahtnu Betnu
(speaker: Peter Kalifornsky)
Kenai 'river-mouth stream its stream'
Shlakaq'   mouth of Slikok Creek (near Kenai Peninsula College) 'little mouth'
Chunuk'tnu   Russian River 'beaver ? river'
Tl'ubugh   Seward, Ressurection Bay area 'back shore'
Tałin Ch'iłtant   Polly Creek 'where we found a whale'
Qezdeghnen   Kustatan sites 'point land'
Ts'eslahtnu   Old Seldovia ''rock fish run-stream'
Angidahtnu   Seldovia '? stream'
Tsayehq'at   China Poot Bay village 'place below rock'
Ts'enghutnu ?   Soonroodna 'bone fur stream' ?
K'kaq'   Anchor Point site 'river mouth'
Nihnalchint   Ninilchik 'lodge is built place'
K'echan Dałkizt   Humpy Point village 'grass is laying place'
Ggasilat   Kasilof site  
Unhghenesditnu   Kalifornsky 'farthest creek over'
Q'es Dudilent   Stepankas 'current flows into outlet'
(speaker: Peter Kalifornsky)
Kenai Lake site 'ridge is there'
Ch'anilnat   Chinila site 'one moves out place'
(speaker: Fedosia Sacaloff)
Old Kenai site 'where we slide down'
Kahtnu   Kenai village 'river mouth river'
Ken Dech'etl't   Salamatov 'scrub timber flat place'
Tuqyankdat   Nikiski No. 1 'no good clearing'
Dghezha Leht
  Nikiski No. 3 'where needlefish run'
Tiduqilts'ett   Titukilsk site 'bad event place'
Quqegh Nik'eteleht   Libby Creek site (Seven Egg Creek) 'fish run up through place'

Upper Inlet Dialect

Dena'ina Listen English Literal Meaning
Ch'elehtnu   Roberts Creek site 'fish run-stream'
Tubughnen   Old Tyonek sites 'beach land'
Tank'itnu   Second Tyonek 'fish dock stream'
Qaggeyshlat   New Tyonek 'little place between toes'
Ch'u'itnu Hdakaq'   Chuitt River site '? river mouth'
Tuqen Kaq'   Alexander Creek 'clear water mouth'
(speaker: Shem Pete)
Susitna Station 'beneath big rock place'
Tanłtunt   Redshirt Lake site 'enclosed object in water place'
Tsuk Qayeh   Lower Yentna River site 'old village'
(speaker: Shem Pete)
Fish Lake sites 'lake current place'
Tiq'atl'ena   Hewitt Lake site 'timbered area notch'
Keshch'a Bena   Donkey Creek Lake 'down feathers lake'
(speaker: Shem Pete)
Kroto Creek village 'on the shoal'
Qiduk'ggat   Montana Creek 'overflows and freezes'
Tsuk Qayeh   site opposite Sunshine Ck mouth 'old village'
K'dalkitnu   Talkeetna 'food is stored river'
Ch'aniltnu Hdakaq'   Chunilna Creek village 'mouth of current flows out stream'
Tatik'niłtun Bena   Stephan Lake village 'mouth of current flows out stream'
Tudli Bena   Nancy Lake village 'cold water lake'
K'enakatnu   Fish Creek village '? stream'
Nughay Bena   (New) Knik 'frog lake'
Łajat   Cottonwood Creek site 'silt place'
Benteh   Wasilla Lake sites 'among the lakes'
Nik'udatl'ech'a   Dinkle Lake site 'dark color extends out'
Tuhnaghiłkits   Bradley-Kepler Lakes site 'extends in water fabric-like'
Niteh   Old Knik, Matanuska 'among the islands'
Chidaq'atnu   Moose Creek 'old lady's hole stream'
Nuk'din'itnu   Chickaloon 'bridge goes across-stream'
Hutnaynut'i   Bodenberg Butte site 'one that is shining'
Skintuk'ełaha   Swan Lake village 'fish run through brush'
Eydlughet   Eklutna 'by the plural objects'
Tak'at   Cairn Point site 'dipnet platform'
Dgheyey Kaq'   Anchorage 'mouth of needle fish'
Nuch'ishtunt   Point Woronzoff site 'wind protected'
Ch'aghałnikt   Point Possession village 'where fabric extends out'
Idlu Bena   Eklutna Lake 'Plural Objects Lake'
Dgheyaytnu   Ship Creek, original Anchorage townsite 'Stickleback Creek'
Niłkidal'iy   Lake Spenard and Lake Hood 'The Ones (Lakes) That Are Joined Together'
Nutuł'iy   Fire Island 'Object That Stands in the Water'
Qin Cheghitnu   Campbell Creek 'Crying Ridge Creek'
Ch'atanhtnu   Matanuska River 'River from Which Trail Comes Out'
K'enaka Bena   Big Lake ' -?- Lake'
K'idazq'eni   Mount Spurr 'That Which Is Burning Inside'
(speaker: Shem Pete)
Susitna River 'Sand River'
K'dalkitnu   Talkeetna River, Talkeetna townsite 'Food Is Stored River'

Source: Dena'ina Topical Dictionary by James Kari, and Dena'ina Placenames list, compiled by James Kari (1994).

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