Letters to the Editor: If the Alabama Hills are renamed, what about the state of Alabama?

Alabama Hills
The Alabama Hills are a prominent rock formation between the Sierra Nevada escarpment and the town of Lone Pine, Calif., in the Owens Valley.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: If those trying to change the name of the Alabama Hills just east of the Sierra Nevada bothered to look farther back than the Civil War, they would discover that the word “Alabama” is actually a Native American word derived from one of the tribes that lived in the area we call Alabama.

It’s not clear exactly which language the word comes from, but many researchers believe that it is a Choctaw word.

A people calling themselves the Alabama did live in the area and were plant gatherers. Spanish and French explorers spelled the name in a variety of ways, but it is clear the Alabama people were a significant presence in the area for hundreds of years.

Do your research, people.

Karen Hamstrom, Mission Viejo


To the editor: Thank you for bringing attention to the story of the unfortunately named Alabama Hills, first called thus by Confederate sympathizers paying homage to a Southern warship. This name is a stain on our history, and we can and must do better.


It’s been on my mind recently as an Angeleno after the powerful Black Lives Matter demonstrations last month. I literally googled “renaming the Alabama Hills,” hoping to see if anyone else was calling attention to it, and your article popped up.

We have so little sense of history here in Southern California, certainly not a sense of any intersection with slavery and the Civil War. We need to hear more stories of inspiring Angelenos like Biddy Mason, a woman who successfully sued for her freedom from enslavement and became a property owner in downtown L.A. in 1866.

Let’s not allow the name of a public space in California to honor the Confederate South. Let’s all tell more diverse stories loudly.

Susan Vaill, Sherman Oaks


To the editor: The origins of the word “alabama” are murky, but it is believed to originate from a Native American language and have various meanings, including “small village” and “thicket clearer.” Accordingly, the Confederate vessel that sank the Union ship Hatteras during the Civil War was bearing a Native American name with nonracial overtones.

Are we to have it then that the name of a state of the Confederacy is now forbidden? Perhaps any such state? If the word “alabama” bears racial overtones, then the state of Alabama should change its name.

Where does offensive end and idiocy begin?

Louis Nevell, Los Angeles