Council of Geographic Names Authorities
in the United States


Registration is now Open
To register, click on this link and fill out the registration form.

The Washington State Geographic Names Committee and COGNA’s Executive Secretary cordially invite you to join us for the Annual Conference of the Council of Geographic Names Authorities, to be held in Tacoma, Washington, June 19-23, 2018.

Registration is now open for the 2018 Council of Geographic Names Authorities annual Geographic Names Conference. The conference will be held June 19-23 in Tacoma, Washington. We are encouraging everyone to register before June 6 so that we can make appropriate plans. In addition, we would like to hear from you even if you cannot come to the conference. Simply fill out the form and indicate 0 in the registration section and add a comment of why you are unable to attend.

Attendees from a variety of complementary backgrounds will share their experiences, their expertise, and will work towards improving standardization practices across the Toponymic community. The conference will provide an exciting and diverse program ranging from educational presentations to discussions about best practices used to manage geographic names information. New information will be posted as it becomes available.

Mary Schaff, Conference Chair
Wayne Furr, Executive Secretary


Tentative Program


Tuesday, June 19th

Registration & Opening Reception

Washington State Historical Society Museum

  • 2:00—5:00 p.m. Registration opens 
  • 5:00—5:30 p.m. Refreshments
  • 5:30—7:00 p.m. Welcoming

Wednesday, June 20th

University of Washington, Tacoma

Jane Russell Commons, William W. Philip Hall

  • 8:00 a.m.  Registration opens
  • 8:30—9:00 a.m.  Housekeeping announcements, opening remarks
  • 9:00—10:00 a.m. COGNA Business Meeting including State Reports
  • 10:00—10:30 a.m. Break
  • 10:30 a.m.—Noon: continue State Reports
  • 12:00—1:30 p.m. Lunch break
  • 1:30—3:00 p.m. Washington State Geographic Names Committee Meeting
  • 3:00—3:30 p.m. Break
  • 3:30—4:00 p.m. Early Place Names in Whatcom County, Washington: Grant Smith
  • 4:00—4:30 p.m. The Hudson’s Bay Company Era: A Legacy of South Puget Sound Place Names: Drew Crooks
  • 4:30—4:45 p.m. DuPont, Washington: Naming a Company Town: Jennifer Crooks
  • 4:45—5:00 p.m. Lightning talk


Thursday, June 21st

  • 8:30 a.m.  Registration opens
  • 8:30—10:00 a.m. U.S. BGN Staff Reports
  • 10:00—10:30 a.m. Break
  • 10:30 a.m. —Noon U.S. BGN Cases
  • 12:00—1:30 p.m. Lunch
  • 1:30--3:00 p.m. State/Federal Roundtable:
  • 3:00—3:30 p.m. Break
  • 3:30—4:00 p.m. BGN Tribal Geographic Names Policy (Policy X): Betsy Kanalley; U.S. Forest Service 
  • 4:00—4:30 p.m. The Mount McKinley-Denali Controversy and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names: Douglas L. Vandegraft; Chief of the Geospatial Services Division, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
  • 4:30—5:00 p.m. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names: Tara Wallace; NOAA


Friday, June 22nd

Papers and Discussions on General Interest Topics

·      8:30—9:00 a.m.

·      9:00—9:30 a.m.  The Geographical Research of Jules Jetté: James Kari (Alaska Native Language Center) & David Kingma (Jesuit Oregon       Province Archives)

·      9:30—10:00 a.m. Places of Power: Examining French Toponymic Spatial Patterns in the Mississippi River Basin: Marcelle Caturia; Student Trainee (Geographer), GNIS/Names Support Unit, US Geological Survey - National Geospatial Technical Operations Center

·      10:00—10:30 a.m. Break

·      10:30 a.m.—11:00 a.m.

·      11:00—11:30 a.m.

·      11:30—11:45 a.m. The South Dakota Board on Geographic Names (SDBGN) Public Involvement Process: David Reiss; SDBGN Administrator; Sr. Policy Advisor; SD Department of Tribal Relations

·      11:45—12:00 noon  Lightning Talk or early lunch break

·      12:00—1:30 p.m. Lunch Break

        ·      1:30—3:00 p.m. Panel Discussion on Native American Place Names: Panel members; Brandon Reynon, Puyallup Tribe, Betsy Kanalley,     US  Forest Service, Mike Iyall, Washington Committee on Geographic Names/Cowlitz Tribe and Nile Thompson, Dushuyay Research 

·      3:00—3:30 p.m. Break

·      3:30—4:00 p.m. Conference Wrap-up

·      4:00—6:00 p.m. On your own!

·               Friday, June 22nd

·               Closing Reception

·               Washington State Historical Society Museum


·      6:00— 7:00 p.m. Reception Dinner

·      7:00—9:00 p.m. Nile Thompson, Closing-Keynote Speaker: Nile worked on the Waterlines project and is an expert at Native American geography and place names issues. 



Saturday, June 23rd

Optional Event

Toponymic Tour (Price to be determined!)

  • 8:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m.  A Toponymic Tour on Saturday, June 23 will be dependent on interest. Tentative plans currently include a van tour of nearby Vashon Island. More details will be provided as our planning solidifies.



Early Place Names in Whatcom County, Washington

Grant Smith

This paper will describe early place names of Whatcom County, Washington in order to show the historical and linguistic background of the European settlers in the region and their cultural interchange with one another and with the Indian tribes already in residence. Primary focus will be on the basic patterns established by the initial cultural  exchange that remain dominant, and relatively little attempt will be made to trace the later overlay of commercial or other social interests. My sources will include thirteen local histories, standard place name studies, early maps, pamphlets, and family manuscripts (mostly from my own family but from others too). These sources are not exhaustive but more than sufficient to illustrate the persistent cultural patterns established by the early contact of settlers and resident Indians. My analysis will rely on George R. Stewart’s classification of place names, which is based on the mechanisms of naming rather than on the motives, and I shall handout copies of that classification with my tabulations on names. Ambiguities in Stewart’s classification system will be noted, but no attempt will be made to correct or justify it. Its general usefulness in describing a cultural pattern will be apparent in my analysis.


The Hudson’s Bay Company Era: A Legacy of South Puget Sound Place Names

Drew Crooks

Place names reflect a region’s history. In the South Puget Sound area of Western Washington there are numerous names bestowed by people who once lived or visited here. One set of place names are associated with the Hudson’s Bay Company (or HBC) era of the nineteenth century. The HBC, a British corporation, operated trading posts across what is now Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

In the South Puget Sound region the HBC ran from 1833 to 1870 a successive series of posts all called Nisqually. Today the sites of these stations are located in the city of DuPont, Pierce County, Washington. In the nineteenth century multicultural HBC employees at Nisqually traded for furs with Native Americans, farmed on a large scale, and sold supplies to American settlers.

From this kaleidoscope of human activity came a number of place names for geographic features in South Puget Sound. Much of this nomenclature has disappeared over time, but some names have survived to the present. These surviving terms, due to the multicultural nature of the HBC workforce, come from Native American, French Canadian, and British sources.

This illustrated presentation by historian Drew Crooks will first briefly examine the HBC era, and then discuss in detail a sampling of surviving HBC era names in South Puget Sound and their historical significance.


DuPont, Washington: Naming a Company Town 

Jennifer Crooks

DuPont, Washington lies in Pierce County, Washington. Though the area is noted for its Native American and Hudson’s Bay Company history, this brief talk will focus on the company town founded in 1909. DuPont Village was built by the E. I. du Pont de Nemours Company to house workers for their nearby explosives plant. Named after the Company, this planned community’s streets were named after the Company’s other plants around the country. After the Company closed the plant in the 1970s, DuPont has undergone many changes and undergone rapid growth, but naming trends still reflect the area’s history. For example, streets in the new Northwest Landing development were specially picked to reflect local history in the hopes of strengthening community identity.


BGN Tribal Geographic Names Policy (Policy X)

Betsy Kanalley; U.S. Forest Service


The Mount McKinley-Denali Controversy and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Douglas L. Vandegraft

1110 Cypress Tree Place

Herndon, VA  20170

For thousands of years, the highest point in North America has been known by Native Alaskans as Denali.  In 1898, the name Mount McKinley was first applied to Federal maps of Alaska.  In 1975, Governor Jay Hammond of Alaska requested that the government officially change the name to Denali.  However, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) did not process the proposal due to the actions of congressmen from Ohio who wanted the mountain to be forever named McKinley.  The BGN has a policy of not acting on name issues that are the subject of pending congressional legislation.  In July 2015, an upcoming visit to Alaska by President Barack Obama and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell provided an opportunity for the BGN to finally help resolve the issue.  The author was the Chairman of the Domestic Names Committee of the BGN at the time, and was involved in preparing briefing materials for Secretary Jewell.

BIO: Douglas Vandegraft is the Chief of the Geospatial Services Division for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and a Deputy Member of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.  Doug lived in Alaska for many years and currently resides in Virginia.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Tara Wallace

Since its formation in 1807, the Coast Survey – currently known as NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, has been a proponent of standardized place names.  In the early 1800’s, there was a need for documenting geographic names during the surveying and mapping of the United States.  Geographic names were assessed and documented as part of the survey process. Detailed reports were submitted that included a general description of the area, as well as a list of names and an authoritative source for each recorded name.

Geographic names are one of many sources used to compile a nautical chart, electronic navigational chart, and Coast Pilot.  These navigational products are legal documents that require our cartographers to track all changes made to each new edition, including geographic names.  NOAA complies with the U.S. policy of “one feature, one name” by using only official names found in GNIS.  Historic and secondary names are important in the culture of local residents, but standardized geographic names are vital references for emergency responders, navigators, and others. Names not found in the GNIS may be included in original source documents processed by NOAA’s Nautical Data Branch.  These new geographic names are not added to nautical charts until they are approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.


The Geographical Research of Jules Jetté 

           James Kari (Alaska Native Language Center) & David Kingma (Jesuit Oregon Province Archives)

Upon his arrival in Nulato in November of 1898, the Jesuit scholar Jules Jetté (1864-1927) began for Denaakk’e (Koyukon) the broadest, most meticulously detailed and ethnologically rich research program that has ever been conducted for an Alaska Native language.  Jules Jetté’s method for documenting place names were entirely of his own invention and were rigorous and scientific. During 2015-2018 with funding from the Alaska BIA ANCSA office and a project based at Tanana Chiefs Conference we are consolidating all of the Koyukon and other Dene place names that Jetté for a book to be titled The Geographical Research of Jules Jetté.


Places of Power: Examining French Toponymic Spatial Patterns in the Mississippi River Basin

Marcelle Caturia

Student Trainee (Geographer), GNIS/Names Support Unit

US Geological Survey - National Geospatial Technical Operations Center

Place-names, or toponyms, represent both location and symbolic meaning, and examining the spatial distribution of place-names across landscapes can reveal otherwise hidden cultural patterns. Including quantitative methods as part of the process of interpretive ethnocultural research has contributed to revitalizing modern scholarship in toponomy. This study takes a similar methodological approach by using spatial statistical methods to visualize general spatial patterns of French place-names in the Mississippi River Basin, combined with qualitative historical and cultural analysis of socio-political patterns at the more local scale of Minnesota.  Integrated analysis of toponymy enables us to better understand how and why French toponymic power changed over time, which yields useful insights to the region’s geography and history.

The South Dakota Board on Geographic Names (SDBGN) Public Involvement Process 

David Reiss

SDBGN Administrator

Sr. Policy Advisor

SD Department of Tribal Relations


This proposal to present a paper is prefaced upon acceptance to present in a lightning talk or abbreviated individual presentation discussing the SDBGN’s public involvement process for considering geographic name changes to place names which have been deemed offensive by the South Dakota Legislature. The SDBGN has established a rigorous and extensive hearing and public involvement process to gather information, public comments, and local government input when presented proposals for replacement names of geographic features or names for unnamed geographic places. The proposed paper will review the history of the SDBGN’s public involvement process, explain the current SDBGN process, and review how and why the SDBGN’s public involvement process has been changed through legislative action. Additionally, the paper will briefly discuss South Dakota open meeting law requirements, records retention, and provide an overview of recent government transparency efforts in South Dakota.

The SDBGN’s public involvement process and authority has changed largely due to a singular place name change consideration; the name change of Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak in the Black Hills region of western South Dakota. Due to high interest locally and regionally, the public comment and deliberation process the SDBGN executed in considering a name change to Harney Peak came under scrutiny from members of the state legislature. Following the USBGN’s decision to rename Harney Peak to Black Elk Peak, the South Dakota Legislature revised the authority granted to the SDBGN where it is limited to providing suggestions to the USBGN only if the Legislature deems a current name of a feature offensive. In response to revised board authority, the SDBGN has substantively changed the public involvement plan it utilizes to reflect changes in authorizing statute and abide by changes in state open meeting requirements. The paper will discuss these changes, the legislature’s intent, and how the SDBGN will consider name change submissions into the future.


Call for Papers

For the 2018 Conference of the Council of Geographic Names Authorities (COGNA) that will take place June 20—22, 2018

at the University of Washington, Tacoma


We are looking for papers and panel discussions to explore a full range of geographic names issues.  Topics may include: name standardization, policies at the Federal, State, Tribal, or local levels of government, conflict resolution regarding naming procedures, and/or geographic name research.


The COGNA Conference is the only conference that brings together the State Geographic Names Authorities (SNAs) and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN). The conference provides participants a unique opportunity to share knowledgeable information about the geographic naming process and research.  There is no better way to network and benefit from the expertise of members and staff of the BGN, SNAs, Tribal authorities, other State and Federal mapping agencies, and members of the geospatial and academic communities.


We invite anyone willing to share their personal or professional experiences with geographic names, research, standardization, policies, and practices to submit papers for individual presentations (25 minutes with 5 minutes of Q & A), lightning talks (10 minutes) or panel sessions (up to 1.5 hours).  For consideration, please submit a 250-word abstract to Mary Schaff at and Wayne Furr at Please indicate the type of presentation: individual, lightning talk, or panel discussion.  For panel discussions, provide the names (or suggested names) of all presenters and their affiliation.  NOTE: The date to submit presentations has been extended until the program is filled.


Submissions on any geographic names topics are welcome.  Suggested topics may include, but are not limited to:


·        Place names of Tacoma, the Puget Sound area, and Pacific Northwest

·        Name standardization and clarification in GIS and other mapping systems

·        Community engagement in naming processes

·        History of local geographic names

·        Naming controversies

·        Changes in place names over time

·        Linguistic and cultural influences on geographic names

·        Native American names – restoration or use of perennial Native names

·        Mapping by various agencies such as USGS, USFS, NPS, BLM, FWS, FEMA, State, and local


We hope that you will submit an abstract, save the dates, and join us in Tacoma, WA for a lively, informative, and educational experience.


2018 COGNA Accommodations

The COGNA Executive Committee made the decision after the 2017 meeting that the group would not pursue a major hotel contract this year. Our number of conference participants has grown small enough that filling a costly room quota is difficult. This is particular true in larger cities like Tacoma and during the high tourist season. In lieu of a conference hotel, the conference planning committee is providing a list of nearby hotels and recommendations. The Google Map below shows the conference meeting locations, hotel locations, light rail stops, and parking lots.

The following hotels near to UW Tacoma may have government rate rooms available:

Hotel Murano:

Courtyard by Marriott Tacoma:

Holiday Inn Express & Suites:  Special notice for attendees who are not government employees or cannot get the government hotel rate: We have arranged for a small block of rooms at the government rate just for you at the Holiday Inn Express. To reserve a room under this block you must call 253-272-2434. Let them know the group code COG.  Or you may use the instructions and the booking link below.

3. Under "Add Special Rate Codes", enter the group code COG to get the group rate.


The last day to make a reservation is May 18th 2018Any guests that need to book outside of the contracted dates of June 18--23, you will need to contact Dean Cordy directly (253) 274-3997.


Best Western Plus Tacoma Dome Hotel:

If traveling with a group, you may find it more cost effective to investigate short-term home or apartment rentals:



Please contact conference planner Mary Schaff at if you have questions or concerns about finding accommodations in Tacoma.


The Deadline for Call for Papers has been extended until the program is filled.

See Call for Papers below