March 25, 2017

Quillayute River; Quileute Nation Spelling

Looking Out a Forks High School Window at the Front Lawn

The view out a Forks High School front window. Cherise Kelley took this in 1997.

The original Forks High School’s front doorway was engraved with “Quillayute Valley High School.” I noticed this when I was a substitute teacher at Forks High School during the 1996/1997 school year. All my paychecks from there are from the Quillayute Valley School District. A new Forks High School was built in 2011.

Because I was familiar with the Quillayute spelling, when I first read Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” novels I thought she had misspelled the indian tribe’s name. She spells it, “Quileute.” I read on Twilight fan forums that fans are accustomed to the Quileute spelling, and so they are puzzled when they visit Forks and see “Quillayute Valley” on school buses and tourism signs. Who has it right? It turns out both do.

The Quileute Nation’s website confirms that the indian tribe uses the Quileute spelling and the river and valley (river basin) use the Quillayute spelling. I concede that Stephenie Meyer used the correct spelling. She was writing about the nation of people. So, why does everyone use a different spelling for the Quillayute Valley and the Quillayute River?

On a hiker’s forum, Forks locals say this on the matter: “Quillayute” is the way European settlers and surveyors spelled the name, but the indian tribe uses “Quileute.” “Quillayute” is how the tribe, the state of Washington and the Federal government all spell the name of the Quillayute River.

La Push as Seen from Rialto Beach, Washington

Driftwood litters the rocks of Rialto Beach, which has a view of the cliffs at La Push, over the water. Cherise Kelley took this photo in 1997.

Forks in the Quillayute River and the Name of the Town of Forks

Back when I lived in Forks, locals told me the town is named Forks because it is a fishing town near three forks in the river. Sure enough, if you look at a satellite photo, the Quillayute River forks three times between the coast and the town of Forks.It forks into the Dickey River near La Push. It forks twice after that, and the second time the two arms of the Quillayute River surround the town of Forks. The Hoh River also forks nearby, when it gets to the mountains to the southeast of the town.

On that same map, it is easy to see why the whole valley is named after the Quillayute River. The three river forks make it so portions of the river flow all over the Quillayute Valley.

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