Council of Geographic Names Authorities
in the United States


Registration is now Open

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. To register, click on this link and fill out the registration form. We are encouraging everyone to register before June 11 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


2018 Tentative Schedule


Tuesday, June 19: Registration will begin at 2:00 P.M. with the Opening Reception starting 5:00 P.M. in the Ben B. Cheney Mezzanine at the Washington State Historical Society Museum, 1911 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, WA. Afternoon admission to the museum is included with your registration. The reception will end at 7:00 P.M. giving everyone time to enjoy dinner at one of the many nearby restaurants.


Wednesday June 20 – 22 meetings will be in the Jane Russell Commons, William W. Philip Hall at the University of Washington, Tacoma.


Wednesday, will feature local announcements, the COGNA Business Meeting with State Geographic Names Report of activities during the past year, a meeting of the Washington State Board on Geographic Names, and papers and discussions on local names.


Thursday the U.S. Board on Geographic Names-Domestic Names Committee meeting will be featured followed by the State-Federal roundtable discussion of problematic issues and questions.


Friday will be filled with academic presentations and panel discussions.  For the Closing Reception with Key Note Speaker, we will move back across the street to the Washington State Historical Society Museum, Ben B. Cheney Mezzanine.


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 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.



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.  Due Date: April 1, 2018.


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, you will need to contact Cinthia Diaz directly (253) 274-3995.


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.