Native American groups got stuck with names chosen arbitrarily by European settlers. They were often derogatory names other tribes used to describe their rivals. For example, “Comanche” is derived from a word in Ute meaning “anyone who wants to fight me all the time,” according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
“It’s like having a map of North America where the United States is labeled ‘gringos’ and Mexico is labeled 'wetbacks,’ ” Herman says. “Naming is an exercise in power. Whether you’re naming places or naming peoples, you are therefore asserting a power of sort of establishing what is reality and what is not.”
In his Map of North America, 1778, Jonathan Carver lays out 11 proposed territories or colonies that never came into existence, but are interesting to see today. Each territory is formed so that it has access to a river, which was the primary mode of transportation at the time. In 1784, Jefferson proposed 14 territories in roughly the same area, which may have been influenced by Carver’s plan.