Kalamazoo’s Origins

The Kalamazoo name comes from a Potawatomi word, first found in a British report in 1772. However, the Kalamazoo River was located on the route between Detroit and Fort Saint-Joseph. French-Canadian traders, missionaries, and military were quite familiar with this area during the French era. The name for the Kalamazoo River was then known by Canadians and French as La rivière Kikanamaso. The name “Kikanamaso” was also recorded by Father Pierre Potier while traveling to Fort Saint-Joseph during the fall of 1760. The true origin of the name Kalamazoo is still debated today. More recent records present another name Ki-ka-ma-sung which meant “boiling water”. This meaning is either referring to the bubbling whirlpools in the rapids of the river or the “race of the boiling kettle”. This was a race held by the Potawatomi where participants would race from their camp near Galesburg (east of Kalamazoo) to the Kalamazoo river and back before the water in their kettle began to boil.

The Kalamazoo RIver




Dunbar, Willis Frederick. Kalamazoo and How It Grew. Kalamazoo: Western Michigan U, 1959. Hathitrust.org. University of Michigan, 12 July 2012. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.

Rzepczynski, Kris. “How Kalamazoo Got Its Name.” Kalamazoo Public Library. N.p., 1998. Web. 02 Dec. 2015.



Banner Photo: Map of Kalamazoo

1. The Kalamazoo River