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University mulls Arapaho spelling for dorm names

Friday - 11/29/2013, 3:08pm  ET

NICOLE WINFIELD
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- The University of Colorado is considering renaming two dorms on its Boulder campus in the Arapaho language -- a plan that could lead to some mangled pronunciation but one that school officials say honors Native American culture.

The Daily Camera reports (http://bit.ly/18bovfn ) the Kittredge West dorm could be renamed Nowoo3 (NAH'-wath) Hall after Chief Niwot, using an Arapaho character that looks like the numeral "3." Kittredge Central is expected to be renamed Houusoo (HOH'-soo) Hall after Chief Little Raven.

Andrew Cowell, chair of CU's linguistics department, said the pronunciations might be confusing, but it makes sense to rename the buildings in the Arapaho language.

"There are tons of examples where you have names in Spanish or French where it could be mispronounced, but if we're going to name a building for someone French, we wouldn't respell it in English," he said. "We would look really stupid and ignorant to do that. Why would we do that with Arapaho?"

In a letter to the Board of Regents, faculty members of the CU Native Studies department explained that using Niwot instead of Nowoo3 would be the equivalent of spelling Charles de Gaulle's name phonetically as Sharl duh Gahl, "which is culturally chauvinist and clearly primitivizing in a Native American context."

The university plans to install plaques explaining the significance of the names, and officials want to create educational programs to explain the pronunciations. The proposal still needs to be approved by the Board of Regents, but a renaming ceremony is being planned for April.

Nowoo3 was a prominent Arapaho leader in the area during the mid-1800s who helped prevent retaliatory violence when the U.S. broke treaties with native nations. Houusoo also was an important Arapaho chief during the same period and helped reconcile several native nations.

Several other universities have buildings with Native American names, including the University of British Columbia Xwi7xwa Library, Stanford's Muwekma-Tah-Ruk Native American Theme House and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Kanonhsesne Residential Program.

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Information from: Daily Camera, http://www.dailycamera.com/


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