Samish is a finalist for name of a new Washington state ferry.

Samish is a finalist for name of a new Washington state ferry.

Samish Indian Nation’s Drive to Name New Washington State Ferry Samish Gaining Steam

In Washington state, Samish has been named as a finalist as a name for one of the two new state ferries under construction. The Samish Indian Nation has been seeking widespread public support to have a ferry named after the tribe. “We feel that it is really fitting that our name is placed on one of the ferries since these waterways were traveled by canoes among the Samish people just like the greater community will be traveling the same waters by ferry. We value Washington State and its commitment to honor Indian Tribes in this manner,” said Samish Tribal Chairman Thomas Wooten in a  press release.

The Washington State Transportation Commission Vessel Naming Policy describes traits the commission is looking for in a name: Broad familiarity, statewide significance, represents Washington’s image and culture (names could represent state-adopted symbols, tribal names, names of bodies of water, geographic location, nautical heritage), and have widespread public support. The name Samish conforms to all of these standards. Samish is a tribal name that is historically rooted in the area that the ferry route will be servicing and carries statewide significance that is recognizable. Bodies of water in the state have also been named after the Samish including Samish River and Samish Lake. Geographic locations including Samish Island and Samish Park have also been named after the Samish.

The name Samish has received widespread support from local, regional supporters, state bodies and officials.  An abundance of community support has been displayed on a Facebook page rallying support for the name along with various press from Indian Country Today Media Network and the Anacortes American.

The other six finalists are Cowlitz, Hoquiam, Muckleshoot, Sammamish, Tokitae, and Ivar Haglund.  In addition to Samish, four of those final names follow the traditional route of tribal names and words carried by most of the 23 ferries already in service on Puget Sound: Cowlitz, Hoquiam, Muckleshoot and Sammamish.  Ivar Haglund was a Seattle character and folk singer who opened the city’s first aquarium at Pier 54 in 1938 along with a fish-and-chips stand, according to, as reported by the Associated Press. He was a radio personality known for publicity stunts. He died in 1985.

Tokitae is the name of an orca captured in 1970 at Whidbey Island’s Penn Cove and better known as Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium. The name was suggested by the Center for Whale Research, which says it is a coastal Salish greeting meeting “nice day, pretty colors.”

The state Transportation Commission will discuss the names at a meeting October 16 in Olympia and likely make a decision at a November 13 meeting in Tacoma, the Associated Press reported.

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