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  I Say 'Wallala'...  
 

and you say 'Gwalala'  --  How do you pronounce this place, anyway?*
by
Julie Verran

Kashia Pomo who were selling driftwood inscribed with words in their language at the watershed event last weekend said the Gualala is pronounced roughly Walali.

In the 1877 New Historical Atlas of Sonoma County, California  Robert A. Thompson wrote:  "The Valhalla, awkwardly spelled Gualala, is a stream on the western border of the county flowing due north, and parallel with the coast just inside a range of hills which rise up from the shore of the ocean.  After a straight north course for almost twenty-five miles it turns and empties into the ocean.  There was never a stream so well named, -- great redwood trees shade its limpid waters, the favorite haunt of the salmon and the trout:  the hills are full of game; deer, elk and bear, and if ever there was a place where the 'bear roasted every morning became whole at night,' it was true, figuratively speaking, of our Sonoma Valhalla, -- for the camp on its margin was never without its haunch of venison or creel or trout.  May the fellow who tortured the name by trying to Peruvanize it, never taste the joys of the true Valhalla."

It seems that 125 years ago people were more concerned about eating bears than about bears eating them.

On a U.S. government map published in 1879 the name is spelled Wallalla.

Nellie Van de Grift Sanchez wrote in Spanish and Indian Place Names of California, published in 1914:  "Gualala, a village in Mendocino County, forty miles west of Cloverdale.  This is an Indian word, 'probably from walali, a generic term of the Pomo language, signifying the meeting-place of the waters of any in-flowing stream with those of the stream into which it flows, or with the ocean.  The present spelling is probably influenced by the Spanish.'  -- (S. A. Barrett, California Publications of Archaeology and Ethnology.)"

The 1969 edition of 1,000 California Place Names:  The Story Behind the Naming of Mountains, Rivers, Lakes, Capes, Bays, Counties and Cities, by Erwin C. Gudde, published by University of California Press, states:  "Gualala, wah-lah'-lah [Sonoma].  A Spanish phonetic rendering of Walhalla, in Teutonic mythology the abode of heroes fallen in battle.  The form Walhalla (variously spelled) was applied by Ernest Rufus, grantee of Rancho German in 1846, either directly because of the romantic setting, or indirectly because the name of the Indian village there sounded like the German word to him."

Please pronounce it Wah-lah'-lah -- or Walali.

*Independent Coast Observer (ICO), August 29, 2003.  www.mendonoma.com  :  ico@mendonoma.com

Articles supplied by Walter Spille from mentioned supplier and Information

   
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