At the June 18th meeting of the Community Forum for Economic Development, I shared with Gary Gilot, South Bend’s Director of Public Works the brochure on the hydroelectric generator project I’d compiled to present to the Building Trades Council. I’d included the idea to christen the viewing chamber portion of the design after the name Native Americans had given the river as an homage to the people who were here before us. Mr. Gilot commented he was deferring to me on the history of the river’s name.

To confirm what I’d learned from various sources about the river’s Native American moniker, I contacted Travis Childs, Director of Education at the Center for History in South Bend. Mr. Childs noted there were four tribes of Native Americans, the Miami, Potawatomi, Fox and Sauk living in and near this area when Europeans encroached upon the land. Depending upon the person transcribing the Native American language, the various tribes had slightly differing pronunciations and thus “English” spellings for the name of the river. Interestingly, all of these names translated to mean “Mystery River”. (One source I’d found suggested the name referred to a mysterious apparition that would appear on the river’s edge, however Mr. Childs noted that this story could not be substantiated).

According to Mr. Childs, the closest approximation and “amalgamation” of the names all the native peoples gave to the river as well as the European settlers’ transcription of the native name for this mystery river was “Sagwa”.

In deference to Mr. Child’s knowledge of the history of the river, I’m going with his suggestion that the simpler version “Sagwa” be proposed for the viewing chamber.

Thus, I suggest The Sagwa Viewing Chamber at the Dam at Century Center. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

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