Washington Post speculated a few days ago that Block Island might be a candidate for renaming in the wake President Obama’s executive decision to revert the name of Mt. McKinley back to the Native American name Denali. As Kirkpatrick explains it:in the
“For thousands of years, Native Americans called this pear-shaped island in southern Rhode Island ‘Manisses‘ (‘Island of the Little God,’) until it was visited in 1614 by Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, who renamed it after himself. Block? Have you ever heard of him?”
Boston.com elaborated somewhat on the history, saying, “War soon broke out between native groups and colonists,” and suggested that, “Given Block’s legacy, maybe the island, as the Post suggests, deserves its old name back.”
I called Blake Filippi, the independent Representative whose district includes includes all of Block Island (as well as Charlestown and portions of Westerly and South Kingstown,) what he thought of the idea. Though he wouldn’t comment on the idea’s merits, he did point out that in his opinion, Block Island residents would have to vote to amend the town charter, and that such a name change could not be done through executive action, as was the case with Mt. Denali.
Filippi also corrected my pronunciation of “Manisses” which is properly “Man-uh-sees” and doesn’t rhyme with “missus.”
I placed a second call to Nancy Dodge, town manager of New Shoreham, located on Block Island. I asked her if the residents of Block island were open to the idea of changing the name from “Block island” to Manisses.
“I don’t sense a groundswell of activity on this,” said Dodge, adding that such a change didn’t seem likely.