Toppenish, Washington

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Toppenish is a city in Yakima County, Washington, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 8,946.



The General Allotment Act of 1887 granted an 80-acre (320,000 m2) allotment of land to a woman of half Indian ancestry, Josephine Bowser Lillie, known as “The Mother of Toppenish”. Lillie platted the north 40 acres (160,000 m2) of her land and these tracts became the first deeded land to be sold on the Yakama Nation Reservation.

Prior to the act’s implementation, all territory set aside by the Treaty of 1855 was in the name of the tribe. None of the land was individually owned. The treaty of 1855 between the United States government, representatives from thirteen other bands, tribes, and Chief Kamiakin resulted in the Yakama Nation relinquishing 16,920 square miles (43,800 km2) of their homeland. Prior to ceding their land, the area was inhabited solely by Native Americans. The only white pioneers before the coming of the railroad in 1883 were ranchers from older settlements bordering the Columbia River.

Some sources[who?] cite the city’s name of Toppenish as deriving from an Yakama word “Xuupinish”, meaning sloping and spreading[citation needed], while another source[who?] contends it is a derivative of the word “Thappahnish”, which translates to “People of the trail that comes from the foot of the hills.”[citation needed]

Another description of the name Toppenish is a word from the Yakama language dialect of Sahaptin, which is "topen"[citation needed] (with a long "o"), meaning "low hills." Then there is the English language suffix "ish" meaning "those from or those of." Put the two together, "topen" and "ish" would mean "those from the low hills." Add an additional "p" to this, and change to a short "o," and the name then becomes "Toppenish." This seems to be a slang term that the early white settlers used to describe the people of the Yakama Nation before their real identity was known.

The town is generally called Tẋápniš in the Sahaptin language and is the likely source of the name Toppenish. It more specifically refers to White Swan and the ridge to the south. The word means ‘protruded, stuck out’ and recalls a landslide that occurred on the ridge south of White Swan. [3]

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