What’s in a Name? (Townships with Ojibwe Names)

by Sue Bruns (from The Depot Express newsletter, Fall 2014)

Beltrami County consists of 51 named townships (not all of them organized) and a number of unnamed, unorganized townships in the northern part of the county. At least four township names have their roots in Ojibwe words:

  • Bemidji Township, which, along with a village established in 1896, took the name “Bemidji,” a shortened version of the Ojibwe name for the lake “Bemejigamaug,” meaning “a lake with water running through it.”
  • Nebish Township: According to the Minnesota Historical Society, Nebish Township and its lake of this name are from the Ojibwe word “aniibiish,” meaning “tea,” a drink enjoyed by both the Ojibwe and white settlers.
  • Waskish Township, located northeast of Upper Red Lake was organized in 1916. The name for this township, as well as the village of Waskish within its borders, reportedly comes from the Ojibwe word for deer: “waawaashkeshi.”
  • Moose Lake Township was named for the already named lake within its borders from the Ojibwe word “mooz.”

Spellings and details about these townships from: Louis Marchand, Up North: Beltrami County’s Townships (Bemidji: Bemidji State University Printing Services, 1998). For more information about Beltrami County’s townships, their beginnings, and how they grew, explore the book in the research library at the Beltrami County History Center.

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