Place Names Along the Santa Fe NHT

Why should we be concerned about place names? These names are a basic way in which we gain meaning about the surrounding landscape. We all use place names to mark our travels through everyday life, but we seldom acknowledge the stories enmeshed within these names.

The Santa Fe Trail is an ideal subject for a historical analysis of place names. As an economic lifeline connecting multiple cultural groups, the trail possesses richness beyond a simple story of westward expansion. The trail, established in 1821, connected Missouri, on the western margin of a growing United States, with New Mexico, at the northern end of a newly-created, Spanish-speaking nation. Even a rudimentary look at the linguistic origins of trail-related names reveals a complex and unpredictable mélange of U.S., Spanish, French, and Native American influence.

Place names also allow us to briefly enter the thought processes of trail users. What were their reference points? What events influenced their perception of the trail? How did they define certain places in relation to others? Place names can unlock countless narratives of the Santa Fe Trail, some better known than others.

Dark Green is Building, Brown is Animal, Dark Purple is Person, Black is Contested, Light Green is Plant, Orange is Location Relative to Other Sites, Red is Event, Yellow is Geographic Feature, Blue is Abstract Idea, Grey is Religion, Teal is Native Ameri
Black is Contested, Light Green is French, Dark Green is French/Native American, Pink is Native American, Red is Spanish, Blue is Anglo (Other), Teal is Anglo (Biographical)

Last updated: December 12, 2019

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National Trails Office Regions 6|7|8
Santa Fe National Historic Trail
1100 Old Santa Fe Trail

Santa Fe, NM 87505

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