Tribal Government & News

Tribal Council endorses Whilamut Passage name for I-5 bridge

10.28.2011 Ron Karten Tribal Council, Culture, History, State government

Tribal members driving Interstate 5 between Springfield and Eugene will soon be seeing another Kalapuyan name on their travels.

Tribal Council endorsed on Sept. 28 a proposal to name a new bridge "Whilamut Passage Bridge." Whilamut is a Kalapuyan word meaning, "Where the river ripples and runs fast."

Endorsement of the name by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde was the final step before the proposed name is taken to the Oregon Transportation Commission, where the Oregon Department of Transportation will state that it supports the name.

According to David Sonnichsen, a member of the Oregon Department of Transportation I-5/WRB Community Advisory Group, the name was proposed by Douglas Beauchamp of the Lane Arts Council.

The Whilamut Passage theme is intended to guide aesthetic enhancements related to the bridge, such as cultural and historical interpretation, naturescaping and art.

In May, the Oregon Department of Transportation said that three Native-themed works will be installed before bridge completion in late 2013. The works will be visible to motorists from the freeway.

Sonnichsen said the name refers to the "nexus of movement associated with the bridge area: vehicles on roadways, pedestrian and bicycle paths, the railroad, water and aquatic life in the river and riparian corridor, and the passage of time itself."

The name has been endorsed by the Eugene and Springfield city councils, the Lane County Commission, the Metropolitan Policy Committee of Lane County, Oregon Geographic Names Board, each state legislator representing Eugene and Springfield and Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio.

In August, Tribal Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy and Tribal member and Cultural Resources Manager David Lewis attended a public event on the bridge with DeFazio.

Sonnichsen said the name will be considered by the Oregon Transportation Commission at a meeting later this year or in early 2012.