Why “Terrapin”: Origins of Our Name


Why “Terrapin”: Origins of Our Name

Living in Washington DC, I frequently get asked if the name for Terrapin Bright Green is somehow associated with the University of Maryland (their mascot is the Terrapin). It is a fair question and a good school, but not the source of our name. “Terrapin” comes from much older source: the heritage of the founders of the firm. Bob Fox and Rick Cook are both originally from the upper Hudson Valley. My family is mostly of European origin, but some of my ancestors were Haudenosaunee, specifically Mohawk people from Upstate New York. From our combined roots, it seemed fitting to derive the firm’s name from the creation story of the Mohawk and other New England tribes:

A long time ago, First Man and First Woman lived among the clouds. One day they got into a dispute and First Man angrily pushed over a big tree. It ripped open a hole in the clouds and First Woman fell through the hole. As she was falling towards the water below, the Wingeds (the birds and insects) did their best to keep her up in the air so that she would not drown in the water below. Meanwhile, the other animals talked with each other to make someplace for her to land. Beaver brought up a bunch of sticks, but unfortunately the sticks broke up and floated away. Finally, after many other attempts, the other animals asked Terrapin if he could help. He agreed and so they started to pile soil on his back. As he came to the surface he became bigger and bigger, and became Terrapin Island, what we now call North America. First Woman lands safely on the Terrapin’s back and makes it her home.

Okay so I cheated a bit, Terrapin is actually the Algonquin name for turtles, the Mohawk name is a’no:wara, which is a bit difficult for most folks to pronounce. Terrapin is also the name for a species of turtle that can live in both fresh and saltwater.

With our firm’s dedication to reconnecting people to Earth’s natural environments, we felt the Terrapin story is particularly appropriate to reflecting this mission. We see our role as the Terrapin, supporting the natural environment to create a better home for humanity.

Filed under: