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The final transit bridge name:
Bridge of the People
We asked you to help name the new transit bridge across the Willamette, and you came through in a big way! The Bridge Naming Committee reviewed nearly 9,500 submissions to find those that would connect and inspire—not just now, but 100 years from now—and best reflect the region’s history and culture.
The committee unanimously selected “Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People” for the name for the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Bridge.
Committee Chair and historian Chet Orloff said the Native American name was selected because it holds the “most promise to connect the people of our region today with the long past of people who have been here for thousands of years, and to connect with future generations.”
About the name
Bridge of the People
While the spelling “Tillicum” was initially proposed, the Committee selected “Tilikum” because that is how the first people who lived here spelled the word. The word is Chinook Wawa, an international language used by first Oregonians, and later spoken by explorers, fur traders, settlers and the first few generations of Portlanders. Chinook Wawa is still spoken today. Tilikum means people, tribe and relatives and has come to mean friendly people and friends.
“Tilikum symbolizes coming together,” said Orloff. “It conveys connections, in not only the relationships between people, but in the connections we will make as we ride, walk, run and cycle across this beautiful new bridge.”
Chinookans are indigenous peoples and tribes who have lived near the Columbia and Willamette rivers for 14,000 years. However, Chinook jargon is not the language of any one tribe. The jargon was developed to help native peoples communicate across distinct languages and dialects, and later was used to communicate with explorers, fur traders and settlers.
A sampling of public submission rationales:
“Tillicum Bridge = Bridge of the People (in the native language). To honor those who loved this place first and those that still do.”
“To honor Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest who used this word to name a friend, or refer to the common people.”
“This is a people’s bridge (not a car bridge) in more ways than one. This name also ties us to the past and present through this Northwest Native American word.”
“Relates back to the original heritage of the state and its first people. Dignified name.”
“A beautiful name bridging past People, families and traditions with those of the present and the future of those who will come.”
The other finalists
Abigail Scott Duniway Transit Bridge
Known as the “Mother of Equal Suffrage,” and “the pioneer woman suffragist of the great Northwest,” Abigail Scott Duniway dedicated herself to social justice, education and family welfare for more than 40 years. She was a tireless lecturer who led the fight to gain voting rights for women in Oregon, and she wrote and edited her own newspaper, The New Northwest. Her signature line— “Yours for Liberty”—is a reminder of her lifelong commitment to equal rights.
Cascadia Crossing Transit Bridge
“Cascadia” takes its name from the Cascade Range and its snowcapped mountains, which provide a scenic backdrop along much of the Willamette River Valley. The word describes a cross-border region of the greater Northwest. Various groups define the boundaries differently, with some drawn along existing political, state and provincial lines, and others drawn along larger ecological, cultural and economic boundaries. The Cascadia region is generally considered to stretch from British Columbia to Northern California.
Wy’east Transit Bridge
“Wy’east” is the original name of Mt. Hood. A Native American story tells of two sons of the Great Spirit Sahale who fell in love with the maiden Loowit. She couldn’t decide who to choose, and the two braves, Wy’east and Klickitat, burned villages and forests as they battled over her. Sahale became enraged and killed all three. Realizing what he had done, Sahale erected three mountains to mark where each fell: beautiful Mt. St. Helens for Loowit, somber Mt. Adams for Klickitat, and proud and erect Mt. Hood for Wy’east.
A member of Captain Vancouver’s discovery expedition later named the mountain after a British Admiral Samuel Hood.