What Does "Umpqua" Mean? The Oregon Community College Name Has A Special Origin

On Thursday, Oct. 1, a shooter entered Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., and reportedly shot and killed 13 people. Initial reports say that 20 more people were injured. The college, which has 3,300 full-time and 16,000 part-time students, is part of a close-knit community in a town of about 20,000. The shooter allegedly entered Snyder Hall, where English classes are reportedly held, and opened fire. While reports filter in on what really happened in this small town three hours south of Portland, many might be wondering what Umpqua actually means. It's a unique word with a lovely origin.

Update: On Friday, it was confirmed that there were nine victim fatalities and that Mercer killed himself after Thursday's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College. On Saturday, there were reports that Mercer handed out a box to a fellow classmate that possibly contained his final note. The note that Mercer left detailed his depression and loneliness. In an interview with CNN on Saturday, Mercer's father wondered how his estranged son was able to obtain 13 guns. Mercer was a student at the college and was enrolled in the writing class where he opened fire. He previously attended a school for mentally unstable children and was briefly enrolled in the U.S. Army in 2008, before he was kicked out a month in for not demonstrating the basic administrative standards required to serve. All of his guns were purchased legally.

The victims' names were released Friday night: Lucero Alcaraz, 19; Treven Taylor Anspach, 20; Rebecka Ann Carnes, 18; Quinn Glen Cooper, 18; Kim Saltmarsh Dietz, 59; Lucas Eibel, 18; Jason Dale Johnson, 33;Lawrence Levine, 67 (assistant professor); Sarena Dawn Moore, 44.

The Umpqua River runs through modern day Roseburg, which is in the western-central part of Oregon. The river is 111 miles long and is known for its fishing. The area south of Roseburg is known as the Umpqua Valley. The name "Umpqua" dates back to as recently as the early 1800s, when the Coquille tribe of Native Americans inhabited the area. One band of the Coquilles was called Umpqua.

The Oregon Encyclopedia says that the name "Umpqua" comes from the Native American term for "place along the river." Other theories report that "Umpqua" means "thundering water" or "dancing water" or "bring across the river." In 1825, a British explorer named the river "Umpqua" after the familiar term used in the region by the tribes. Two hundred years ago, the river was a great spot for fur trading. In modern times, it's a good spot for whitewater rafting.

Though the definition has nothing to do with violence or terror, Oct. 1 will forever make us associate the word "Umpqua" with this shooting. The place along the river suffered a terrible tragedy Thursday, but later, rather than sooner, the dancing water will hopefully help to heal.

Images via Rick Obst/Flickr