Saturday, August 15, 2009
The last best word on the name Navasota, Nave soto, I MEAN NABASOTO!
We’ve considered several possible translations of the word Navasota. Native American, French, Castilian, and blends of each, with amazingly applicable meanings. My favorite is the idea that the word goes back to ancient times before the Yuman culture migrated into Mexico from south Texas and became the Aztecs. Their word for prickly pear was NAVA. Prickly pears were one of the main sources for food and dyes for Indians of the southwest. Later it was the Yoeme speaking peoples who gave the name to the tribe we know as the "Navajos," meaning “Prickly Pear village” in Yoeme. To the Jumano Indians, who ranges over much of south and southwest Texas, and who made pottery called sote to keep their foodstuffs in, Nava sote was cactus pots. Sort of a native way to say “horn of plenty.” It was more than that. It was the very essence of their existence.
We have discovered that as different groups passed through, it is possible that they heard a similar word to their own language and adapted it. The Castilian speaking nobles who led the Conquistadors would have heard “Navas Otro” meaning other valley (as in the other arm of the Brazos). La Salle and his men might have heard, and this is probably a stretch, Novas Ote, which would combine Algonquin with French to make “new path.” We have seen that the French observed a tribe called the Nabedache, or “Nabe dechet,” trashy wastrels, to them, a reflection that this tribe was seemingly more impoverished and primitive than other Caddoan tribes. But this name was probably a perversion of Na Bedias, the local tribe whose name meant something like People of Brushwood.
And then there is plain old Spanish, and there is a reason why I have saved it for last. It is simple, but could create such a story that I hesitate. Yet it too could make perfect sense, and adds to the amazing series of similar sounding words that all relate to our history, but mean different things.
The Spanish version would been Nave Soto; (naba soto) and this is getting near the spelling you see on some old references to Navasota, when it was written by anglos as “Navisoto”.. meaning Ship Grove or Ship [made of] Brush. We’re getting warm.
Related to Latin, the word Nave has everything to do with Navigation. That certainly fits. Soto means grove, or more precisely a thicket of small trees, shrubs or bushes. That too perfectly fits the banks of the Navasota river. In the same way that “wood” can mean forest, or the material we make lumber out of. At first glance, no one would understand the relationship between ships, or shipping and a grove. Unless, once again you look at the local flora. If you were someone like, say Cabeza de Vaca, and you were traversing the Texas plains, and you saw a valuable resource, like the most favorite wood used to build ships. Live Oaks. Many groves of them, at the confluence of the Brazos with the NAVE SOTO. You would make note of that, beyond the coast, and present day Brazoria County, the closest large stand of mammoth live oaks to Galveston Island, and the southeast Texas coast, since later on you or someone might need to know that. Right there on your handmade map that you made for the Spanish governor, you would write, Nave Soto, Ships [out of these] Groves, just float the logs down the river to the shipyards… never thinking that they might name the river the same thing...
An even more interesting and credible possibility is at this Navasota fork of the Brazos River is where the “Nabedache” or Bedias Indians of Grimes County had canoes or dugouts stashed, which they used to traverse the rivers in their trade network. Canoes might have been found hidden in a grove of shrubs, or brushwood. Naves sotos; ships [in the ] bushes. Now here is where Spanish speakers will get into the fray. If this is true, correctly constructed it should be Soto del naviero, grove of shipping, or Soto del naves, grove of ships. The noun always comes first. But if we see it as a place to hide a vessel, it works: Nave Soto, Ship [in the] Brush. SHIP GROVED. It’s a shaky stretch, and yet this is a very appropriate idea and more importantly, the word SOTO, grove or brush in Spanish, seems to be a translation with the meaning of the Bedias name: Brushwood.
When the Spanish met them, and tried to ascertain their name, the Bedias said “Na Bedias,” meaning people [of] brushwood. Perhaps the Spanish, having seen their small ships, stored by the natives in trees in case of flooding, thought instantly of them and remembered them as “Nave Soto,” ships groved or “treed.” It is also possible that the Na Bedias made their boats out of some kind of woven material that floated, like cane. If asked their name, they might have pointed to these crafts and said Na Bedias! Brushwood! There like those boats! If so, the Spanish would have called them something like brush boats, or in Spanish, reversed as Naves Sotos. Anyway, when we get to two totally unrelated cultures, calling the same thing by words that sound alike and have similar meaning, we are getting into actual cognates and the loan word category which is very promising as a solution. Not understanding this Caddoan name, Na Bedias, the Spaniards heard Nabe dias, but since this made absolutely no sense to them, they fixed it into something that did.
Na Bedias > Fr. Nabedache & Sp. Nave Soto> Tx. Navisoto = Navasota.
People of Brushwood, brushwoodboats, home name, with no meaning
So take your pick! Put a fork in this, I think we are done.