Tag Archives: Indigenous

Athabasca River

River. Alberta: Flows 1,290 kilometres from Columbia Icefield to Lake Athabasca
58° 40′ 0″ N 110° 50′ 0″ W — Map 74L10 — Google
Earliest known reference to this name is 1800 (David Thompson).
Name officially adopted in 1948

“Athabasca” is from the Cree language and is said to mean “an area of grass or reeds.” The name likely refers to the muddy delta of the river where it flows into Lake Athabasca.

In 1790, the name of the river was recorded as “Great Arabuska.” In 1801 it was labelled “Athapasco.” The Arrowsmith map of 1802 shows a slight variation as “Arthapescow.” In the late eighteenth century, the Dunne-za people who lived along its banks called it the “Elk River,” and it appears as “Elk River” on Alexander Mackenzie’s map dated 1801.

David Thompson and Peter Fidler, who explored the middle section of the river in 1799–1800, both referred to it in their journals as the “Athabasca.”

In 1820, George Simpson, the governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, referred to it as the “Athabasca or Elk River.” Today, local residents also refer to the feature as “Big River,” the Cree version of which was in use in 1880 when George Mercer Dawson labelled it as “Athabasca River or Mus-ta-hi-sî-pî.”

References:

  • Thompson, David. David Thompson’s Narrative of His Explorations in Western America, 1784-1812. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1916. University of British Columbia
  • Simpson, George [1786 or 1787–1860]. Fur trade and empire. George Simpson’s journal entitled Remarks connected with fur trade in consequence of a voyage from York Factory to Fort George and back to York Factory 1824-25. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931. UBC Library
  • Aubrey, Merrily K. Place Names of Alberta. Volume IV: Northern Alberta. University of Calgary Press, 1996
  • Aubrey, Merrily K. Concise Place Names of Alberta. University of Calgary Press, 2006
  • Athabasca River. Wikipedia

Athabasca, Lake

Lake. Alberta: NW corner of Saskatchewan and NE corner of Alberta between 58° and 60° N.
59° 05′ N 110° 10′ W — Map 74 M/1 — GoogleGeoHack
Earliest known reference to this name is 1784 (Cook).
Name officially adopted in 1983
Detail of map of the world in Cook’s “Third Voyage,” 1784. By Henry Roberts, Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Navy

Detail of map of the world in Cook’s “Third Voyage,” 1784. By Henry Roberts, Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Navy
UBC Library Digital Collections

The lake appears as “Arathapescow Lake” on the chart accompanying James Cook’s A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, published in 1784. The chart displays the voyages of Captain Cook; the details about the interior of North America came from fur trade sources.

Alexander Mackenzie, starting his voyage from Fort Chepewyan on Lake Athabasca to the Pacific Ocean in October 1792, wrote:

We entered the Peace River at seven in the morning of the 12th, taking a Westerly course. It is evident, that all the land between it and the Lake of the Hills, as far as the Elk River, is formed by the quantity of earth and mud, which is carried down by the streams of those two great rivers. In this space there are several lakes. The lake, Clear Water, which is the deepest, Lake Vassieu, and the Athabasca Lake, which is the largest of the three, and whose denomination in the Knistineaux language, implies, a flat low, swampy country, subject to inundations.

On the Mackenzie’s 1803 map, the lake appears as “Lake of the Hills.” On Aaron Arrowsmith’s 1795 map the lake is called “Athapescow Lake.”

The word Athabaskan is an anglicized version of a Cree language name for Lake Athabasca (Cree: Āðapāskāw “[where] there are reeds one after another”). Cree is one of the Algonquian languages and therefore not itself an Athabaskan language.

In the 18th century the territory around the lake was occupied by indigenous Dane-zaa (historically referred to as the Beaver tribe by Europeans) and Chipewyan people. Both are of the Athabaskan language family.

In Albert Lacombe’s Dictionnaire de la langue des Cris (1874), the lake and river are called “Athabaskaw” in the accompanying map, but there is not an entry for that specific word. Lacombe does cite as an unspecified place name “Ayabaskaw” or “Arabaskaw,” meaning “il y a des joncs ou du foin ça et là” [There are rushes and hay here and there] (p. 705).

In 1790, it was referred to as “Lake of the Hills,” and the river, the Great Arabuska. Lake of the Hills may have been a more genteel translation of the name for the lake at the time. Peter Fidler recorded the Cree name as Too-toos Sack-a-ha-gan, and the Chipewyan name as Thew Too-ak. The literal translation of the Cree name is “breast” lake, referring to the north-west shore, which according to Philip Turnor in 1791, came “from their appearing high and rounded at a distance.”

However, the most commonly accepted version of the origin of the name is from the Cree, where it is said to mean “where there are reeds,” referring to the muddy delta of the river where it falls into Lake Athabasca. Of this portion of it, Turner wrote “low swampy ground on the South side with a few willows growing upon it, from which the Lake in general takes its name Athapison in the Southern [Cree] tongue [which] signifies open country such as lakes with willows and grass growing about them.” In 1820, George Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company referred to it as the “Athabasca or Elk River.”

References:

  • Roberts, Henry (Lieutenant in His Majesty’s Navy). London: A General Chart exhibiting the Discoveries made by Capn. James Cook in this and his two preceeding Voyages; with the Tracks of the Ships under his Command (1784). Princeton Library
  • Hearne, Samuel, and Turnor, Phillip. Journals of Samuel Hearne and Philip Turnor between the years 1774 and 1792. Champlain Society, 1934. Internet Archive
  • Arrowsmith, Aaron [1750–1823]. A Map Exhibiting All the New Discoveries in the Interior Parts of North America. 1795
  • Mackenzie, Alexander [1764–1820]. A map of America, between latitudes 40 and 70 North, and longitudes 45 and 180 West, exhibiting Mackenzie’s Track from Montreal to Fort Chipewyan and from thence to the North Sea in 1789 & to the West Pacific Ocean in 1793. London: T. Cadell, Jun., and W. Davies, 1803. Internet Archive
  • Mackenzie, Alexander [1764–1820]. Voyages from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence through the Continent of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in the years 1789 and 1793. London: T. Cadell, Jun., and W. Davies, 1803. Internet Archive
  • Simpson, George [1786 or 1787–1860]. Fur trade and empire. George Simpson’s journal entitled Remarks connected with fur trade in consequence of a voyage from York Factory to Fort George and back to York Factory 1824-25. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931. UBC Library
  • Dictionnaire de la langue des Cris. Montréal: C. O. Beauchemin & Valois, 1874. Internet Archive
  • Aubrey, Merrily K. Place Names of Alberta. Volume IV: Northern Alberta. University of Calgary Press, 1996
  • Aubrey, Merrily K. Concise Place Names of Alberta. University of Calgary Press, 2006
  • Lake Athabasca. Wikipedia

Shuswap River

Feature type: river
Province: British Columbia
Location: Former name for Raush River
A Native camp, Tête Jaune Cache area, 1910s.

A Native camp, Tête Jaune Cache area, 1910s.
Valemount & Area Museum

The Raush River was originally known as the Shuswap River, after the natives living in the area at first white contact. There was a Shuswap settlement at Tête Jaune Cache. The Robson Valley marked their northern limits.

These Shuswap Indians of the Texqakallt band of the upper North Thompson River were the earliest known inhabitants of the upper reaches of the Fraser River. They were almost completely nomadic. They dressed only in marmot skins and slept on the open snow with their feet toward a central fire. At times, they constructed bark teepees. Lodges and fish drying racks were constructed in prime salmon fishing territory at the confluence of the McLennan and Fraser Rivers in the vicinity of what is now Tete Jaune Cache. As well as salmon from the Fraser, trout were reportedly taken from Yellowhead Lake. They hunted bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, marmots, and other small mammals and birds. They also relied on edible plants in the area, especially berries.

References:

Little Shuswap Creek

Feature type: creek
Province: British Columbia
Location: Former name for Kiwa Creek

In his “Notes on the Cariboo Range” of 1925, Munday wrote, “The local name of the Big Shuswap conflicts with the Shuswap River further south and appears on recent government maps as Raushwap or Rausch River (from Riviere au Shuswap). Kiwa Creek is known locally as Little Shuswap.”

References:

  • Munday, W. A. D. “In the Cariboo Range — Mt. David Thompson.” Canadian Alpine Journal, (1925):130-136. Alpine Club of Canada. p. 136

Cariboo Mountains

Mountains. British Columbia: Between Rocky Mountain Trench and E side of Bowron Lake, Cariboo Mountains & Wells Gray Provincial Park
52°55’00” N 120°15’00” W — Map 93A/16 — Google
Earliest known reference to this name is 1861 (James Douglas).
Name officially adopted in 1918. Official in BCCanada
Cariboo Mountains

Cariboo Mountains

The name Cariboo is derived from the Algonquian Indian word xalibu, meaning “pawer” or “scratcher,” referring to the North American reindeer. The name was first applied to the goldfield area around Quesnel and Barkerville, where caribou were once abundant. The name goes back to at least 1861, near the beginning of the gold rush, when Governor James Douglas of the Colony of British Columbia used the name Cariboo to describe the area in dispatches to Britain.

This name appears on B.C. Surveyor General Joseph William Trutch’s 1871 “Map of British Columbia to the 56th Parallel North Latitude.”

The name “Cariboo Mountains” was officially adopted in 1918, not “Cariboo Range” as labelled on Bowman’s 1887 map of the Cariboo Mining District.

Raymond T. Zillmer made a number of explorations in the Cariboo Mountains in the 1930s and 40s and wrote articles about the mountaineering history in the Canadian Alpine Journal and the American Alpine Journal.

The Cariboo Range is important in the development of Canada. When the Canadian Pacific Railway considered the matter of its route across the continental divide, it tentatively selected Yellow- head Pass, for it offered the easiest crossing. But that decision was frustrated by the Cariboo Mountains. A practical railroad route led from Yellowhead Pass to the Fraser River and down the Fraser until the Cariboo Range was reached, about 50 miles west of the pass. Here, from an elevation of 2400 ft., at Tête Jaune Cache, the Cariboo Range rises in a very short distance to as high as 11,750 ft., the height of Mt. Sir Wilfred Laurier, the highest peak of the entire Interior Ranges of British Columbia. If a route could not be found across the range, a long detour to the northwest or to the south was necessary—the routes now followed by the Canadian National Railway. So from 1871 to 1874 four well- equipped expeditions sought a route across the Cariboo Mountains. But they found that only high glacial passes were available. So the route across Yellowhead Pass was abandoned in favor of the more southerly route now used by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

References:

  • Trutch, Joseph William [1826–1904]. Map of British Columbia to the 56th Parallel North Latitude. Victoria, B.C.: Lands and Works Office, 1871. University of Victoria
  • Bowman, Amos [1839–1894]. Maps of the principal auriferous creeks in the Cariboo mining district, British Columbia. Ottawa: Geological Survey of Canada, 1895. Hathi Trust
  • Bowman, Amos [1839–1894]. Map of the Cariboo Mining District, British Columbia, to illustrate the report of Amos Bowman. 1895. Cariboo Gold Rush
  • Zillmer, Raymond T. [1887–1960]. “Explorations in the Southern Cariboos.” Canadian Alpine Journal, Vol. 27 (1939):48-61. Alpine Club of Canada
  • Zillmer, Raymond T. [1887–1960]. “The Exploration of the Cariboo Range from the East.” American Alpine Journal, 5:2 (1944):261-274. American Alpine Club
  • Thorington, James Monroe [1895-1989]. “Canada, Cariboo Range.” American Alpine Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2 (1949). American Alpine Club
  • Akrigg, George Philip Vernon (1913-2001), and Helen B. Akrigg. British Columbia Place Names. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997. Internet Archive
  • British Columbia Geographical Names. Government of BC. BCGN
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