In a joint session with Missoula County commissioners, the Missoula City Council on Monday night unanimously passed its intent to adopt the Mullan Area Master Plan – and erase Mullan’s name from the process.
The master plan outlining the vision and regulations for the area west of Reserve Street has been in development since January and has already won the approval from the Consolidated Planning Board and other organizations.
But with concerns over Capt. John Mullan’s reported xenophobic reputation, supporters of the plan offered a name change for the Mullan area based upon conversations had with the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribe.
The updated name is “Sxwtpqyen,” which is Salish for “Place Where Something Comes to a Point.” It reflects the area’s cottonwoods that become narrower and narrower going upstream.
“As natives, we’re used to being erased or forgotten or invisible, and so we truly appreciate the opportunity to share some of our culture and our word to continue a good working relationship with you all,” Salish-Kootenai Tribe Chair Shelly Fyants said to planners and other Missoula leaders.
Planners said it was brought to their attention back in June that Mullan’s namesake of soldier and explorer Capt. John Mullan was considered problematic by some due to alleged anti-Native-American comments Mullan once made.
So planners brought the name Sxwtpqyen, which was endorsed by the tribe as a change to the name of the area.
Talks with the tribe also brought new action items to the master plan, including a native plant survey and developing a native prairie park in addition to other parkland and ongoing tribal engagement.
“We’re working with neighborhoods because after this plan is adopted, this plan does not end,” said Andrew Hagemeier of Community and Planning Services.
The plan focusing on a mixed array of houses and other uses will likely be adopted by a vote during the City Council meeting on Dec. 14. Missoula County commissioners will hold their vote on Jan. 7.