The Cattaraugus River, New York State, USA. This is a foul smelling river – a result of the gases eminating from the river clay and mud.

The river is named “Cattaraugus” derived from the Native American Senecan word ‘Gadages Kao’ meaning “Foul Smelling Banks”.

In their Water-Investigation Report, ‘Distribution and Source of Barium in Ground Water, Cattaraugus Indian Reservation, Southwestern New York” published in 1984, R.B. Moore and W.W. Staubitz say, “The high barium concentrations (in the ground water) are attributed to dissolution of the mineral Barite (Barium Sulphate – BaSO4), which is present in the bedrock and possibly in overlying silt, clay, or till. The dissolution of Barite seems to be controlled by action of sulfate-reducing bacteria, which alter the BaSO4 equilibrium by removing sulfate ions and permitting additional barite to dissolve.

The sulphur ions are released into the air and cause the foul smell.

Now lets look at the etymology of the Seneca word “Gadeges Kao”. In sanskrit, a close cognate is ‘Gandhak Kula’ (गन्धक कूल) which means ‘Sulphur Banks’, Gandhak (गन्धक) meaning ‘Sulphur or Brimstone’ and  Kula (कूल) meaning ‘Banks’.  Also the word “Gandha” (गन्ध) in Sanskrit means ‘Odour’.

‘Gandhak’ is a very common river name in South East Asia. There is a river by the name of Gandhak in Nepal too.

It is also curious that “GadegesKao” goes by the name of Cattaraugus. If one distorts the word a bit, to Khatta-rodhas (खट्ट-रोधस्), it still translates as ‘Sour-Banks’ in Sanskrit, Khatta (खट्ट) meaning ‘Sour’ and ‘Rodhus (रोधस्) is another Sanskrit word meaning ‘Bank’.

Cattaraugus Creek

Curious indeed. Is there some link between the Native American Seneca language and Sanskrit ? 

You decide.

Link: Water Investigation Report


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