General History/Mississippi River


who named the Mississippi River? Did it already have that name when La Salle explored it or did he name it after the Mississippi Indians in the area?

Apologies for the time frame.
I think the question may possibly be argued either way.
I used two Geographical dictionaries for research, such as it was and then recalled there are both a 'Mississippi River' and a 'Mississippi Lake' in Ontario, Canada where this response is being composed.
One of the works I consulted explained the word 'Mississippi' has a meaning of 'Great Water(s)'.  Thus the people of Mississippi in terms of the aboriginals would likely have seen themselves as the people of the 'Great Water' or the people residing in territory near the 'Great Water'.
Often the early explorers had difficulty understanding (due to cultural issues along with those of linguistics) how the original North Americans viewed territory and place names for starters.
Thus the explorers, may, themselves, have felt the name Mississippi was already the name of the river which may actually have been seen as a locals' 'description' of the waterway.
A reason for me sitting on the response is due to a conundrum as to the language roots of the aboriginals in terms of use of the name 'Mississippi' here in Ontario as well as in the United States.  Even if we think of the source of the United States' Mississippi being quite far north - that locale is likely at least some fifteen hundred miles away from either Mississippi Lake or Mississippi River in Ontario.
My suggestion is to seek out someone who knows more about the languages of the indigenous peoples and the vocabulary they shared - who also might give a better response to your question as posed.
For this response, I consulted:
Munro, David (ed.) - Oxford Dictionary of the World.  New York:  Oxford University Press:  1995
Hopkins, Daniel (ed.) - Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary:  Third Edition:  Springfield:  2001
Boyer, Paul S. (ed.) - The Oxford Companion to United States History.  New York:  Oxford University Press:  2001
I also have used some of my knowledge of 'primitive languages and cultures' from my educational background - most of this knowledge not being directly related to the indigenous peoples of North America - hence the desire not to suggest this is a definitive response to the question.
You may, if you so desire, ask if there is another available to give another response/opinion about your question.

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Rev. Bob Matheson


I have experience on-line responding to questions primarily in history: Modern England; Modern Europe: North America (Canada and the United States); as well as Europe in the Middle Ages. Despite, or actually perhaps because of, my profession as a Clergy of The United Church of Canada, I have tended to steer away from questions in the realm of Religion and Spirituality. I have also responded to some questions regarding the preparation and presentation of scholarly papers in terms of the use of such style sheets as The Chicago Manual of Style and that published by The Modern Language Association of America.


My interest in history was sparked by the black sheep of the staff at the Secondary School I attended in Ottawa, Canada. He pressed us to prepare polished papers of a style not normally anticipated by others on staff at this educational site. I have purposely worked at being a 'generalist' rather than a 'specialist' in education and attended Sheridan College in Brampton, Ontario with current location in Oakville, Ontario. From there I attended Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario which is an 'essay' university. My Master of Divinity comes from Queen's Theological College which was part of Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario at the time. While I have responded to questions in history on-line, primarily, I have experience in fielding some theoretical questions in the realm of sociology.

Liberal Party of Canada

Matriculation (equivalent) - Humber College, Toronto, Ontario, 1979. Diploma in General Arts - Sheridan College, Oakville, Ontario, 1971. Bachelor of Arts Degree - Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, 1975 - Double Major in History and Sociology. Master of Divinity Degree - Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, 1977.

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Honour Roll of the College President, Sheridan College, 1971

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Full-time Clergy at Emmanuel United Church, Foxboro (part of the City of Belleville), Ontario since 2007.

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