What does "wau" mean in place names like Milwaukee, Waukegan, and Waupaca?

In Cecil’s answer, he states that all North American Indian languages were oral. I’ve always been told that the Cherokee language was written. Were the people telling me that wrong?

I don’t have a cite, but I thought I heard that somebody invented written Cherokee not too long ago, to keep the language from being lost completely.

I am not a linguist or historian, but I do know that Cherokee script was invented by Sequoyah in the early 19th century. From www.cherokee.org:

It should be noted that Sequoyah never learned to read or write English; he created the Cherokee alphabet from the ground up. There was a short discussion of Sequoyah in Guns, Germs, and Steel; I mention this because this puts in context just how absolutely incredible Sequoyah’s achievement was. He single-handedly re-created thousands of years of alphabetic development just because he knew it could be done, even though he didn’t know up front how to do it. Simply amazing.

So, I guess the question is when did the written form of the Cherokee language get adopted in wide use among Cherokees. Since it apparently happened after the appearance of the white man and the subsequent comingling, then it probably doesn’t count.

From this biography of Sequoyah:

This was most definately well after the arrival of Europeans. In fact, Sequoyah had the idea to create a written language because he knew that English was a written language.

And anyone who has seen the Cherokee syllabary can tell that Sequoyah based its esthetic, though not its operation, on the printed two-case Latin alphabet. See http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U13A0.pdf

Recent thought is that the idea of writing may have arisen only once in the Old World, in Mesopotamia, and once in the New World, in Mesoamerica. (Amerind legends of bearded white men who brought language might even mean, I suppose, that it was only invented once.) Some peoples, like the Egyptians or Sequoyah, took only the idea. Others, like the West Semites, the Greeks, the Etruscans, the Romans, and the Anglo-Saxons, adapted or adopted an entire system.

But I just think it is neat that Unca Cece is writing about my home town, and other places here in Wisconsin!

The history of our unusual city names is something facinating for many of the people here!

The way I heard it (from an Ojibwa (Chippewa) elder woman), “waukee” means earth or land, and “waubin” means light or white (or the direction of the rising sun). Kudos to uncle Cecil for a correct translation of Milwaukee. An astonishing number of people suffer under the delusion that it means “gathering place of the waters”. There’s a town near my home (and probably near AquaPura’s) which gets a double “wau”: “Wauwatosa” means “firefly”.