Tillamook County creek renamed to honor Nestucca Bobb

07.21.2020 Danielle Frost History
Squaw Creek in Tillamook County, south of Highway 130 on the way to Pacific City, has been renamed in honor of Nestucca Bobb, an ancestor of the Grand Ronde Tribe's Bobb family. (Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez/Smoke Signals)


By Danielle Frost

Smoke Signals staff writer

In the late 19th century, Levi Bobb (also known as Levi Tillamook or Levi Nestuc), a leader of the Nestucca Tribe of Tillamook Indians, resettled at the Grand Ronde Reservation and became a community leader, as did several of his descendants.

Some 140 years later, a 3.3-mile long stream in Tillamook County has been renamed Nestucca Bobb Creek in his honor thanks to the combined efforts of former Tribal Historian David Lewis, the Bobb family and Tribal Council.

The creek name is a combination of the original Tribal name with the Bobb surname.

Tribal Elder Sequoia Bobb Raya, a former oral historian for the Tribe, said he is pleased with the change, especially since the stream was previously called Squaw Creek, a racial slur.

“I feel like we’re getting some of our history back,” Raya said. “Levi Bobb was an important member of the community. He was my great-great-grandfather.”

Lewis, who was then Raya’s manager at the Cultural Resources Department, has worked on renaming projects before. Due to that, the Oregon Geographical Names Board asked him to submit a proposal to change the creek’s name.

“I looked at the history of the Nestuccas and found that Levi Bobb and some of his family resettled in Grand Ronde and married into the Tribe,” Lewis said. “I felt it was fitting to honor them with a place name in their original location.”

In his application, Lewis wrote that the between 1856 to the 1880s, the Nestuccas visited Grand Ronde to shop for supplies and services. In 1875, they were moved to the Salmon River Encampment, about two hours away from Grand Ronde by horseback. Many then married Natives on the Grand Ronde Reservation and moved there. 

“The Nestucca and Tillamook Indians are a part of Grand Ronde Tribal history and many are descendants of Levi Bobb,” the application stated. “People like Wilson Bobb and Steve Bobb Sr. have served as Tribal leaders for many years, helped with the Restoration of the Tribe and have taken leadership roles on the Tribal Council.”  

Tribal Council member Steve Bobb Sr. wrote a letter in support of the renaming from the Bobb family.

“Since time immemorial, the Bobb family ancestors have lived, hunted, fished and gathered along the banks and tributaries of the Nestucca River. … It is an honor for a creek to be named after one of our ancestors, Nestucca Bobb, a leader among the Nestucca Band of Tillamook. Naming this creek after the Indigenous people honors our ancestors.”

When contacted by Smoke Signals, Steve Bobb added that from the time Lewis brought the proposed change to him it has been an honor. Nestucca Bobb is the cousin of his great-grandfather.

“I have felt it is an honor not only for the decision to remove the offensive longtime name, but to suggest renaming it after my distant ancestor and leader in this coastal Tribe, for me and my entire Bobb family, this is a humbling and wonderful honor.”

Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy also included a letter with the application.

“Naming a place after this family will recognize and help others to learn about the Indigenous people of Tillamook County,” she said.

Lewis noted that the letters of support helped to fast-track the application.

“That helped it fly through the process,” he said. “Then, it was sent to the national board for approval.”

A Google search of Nestucca Bobb Creek shows it has been renamed and also includes a few sentences about the history behind the change.  

Recently Lewis, Raya and Raya’s sister, Tribal Elder Ann Lewis, traveled to the newly named creek in Tillamook County, which is about 15 miles from Grand Ronde.

There, they were met by Tillamook County Commissioner Mary Faith Bell.

“I was honored to meet them and to learn a little about their family and the history of the area, and to get a sense of what the creek name means to them,” Bell said.

One unsettling aspect is the road next to the creek is still named Squaw Creek Road. The next step in the journey will be renaming it Nestucca Bobb Creek Road.

“Squaw Creek Road is not a Tillamook County road,” Bell said. “We will research who the road belongs to and partner with David Lewis and the Bobb family to petition for the road name change. Hopefully, at this time next year we will meet again to celebrate Nestucca Bobb Creek Road, adjacent Nestucca Bobb Creek, in south Tillamook County.”