Tag Archives: Pan-Canadian

Peace River

Alberta-BC boundary. River: Peace River drainage
Flows E from Williston Lake into Alberta, thence NE into Slave River
56°08’43″N N 120°00’00″W W — Map 94A/1 — GoogleGeoHack
Official in BCCanada

On Turnor map, 1790, as “Beaver Indian river by the Canadians called the Peace River” (18th Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, 31 March 1924). Identified as “Unjigah or Peace River” in Alexander Mackenzie’s journal (Voyage to the Pacific… 1793 p.319). Identified as “the great Unjigah or Peace River” by G.M. Dawson (Geological Survey Report 1879-80, p51B).

“….we came to the Peace Point [near Lake Athabasca in NE Alberta] from which, according to the report of my interpreter, the river derives its name. It was the spot where the Kristeneaux [Cree] and Beaver Indians settled their dispute. The real name of the river and point being that of the land which was the object of contention. When this country was formerly invaded by the Knisteneaux, they found the Beaver Indians inhabiting the land about Portage la Loche; and the adjoining tribe were those whom they called Slavey. They drove both these tribes before them; when the latter proceeded down the river from the Lake of the Hills [Lake Athabasca], in consequence of which that part of it obtained the name of the Slave River. The former proceeded up the river, and when the Kristeneaux made peace with them, this place was settled to be the boundary.” (Alexander Mackenzie, Voyage to the Pacific… 1793, partially reprinted in the 18th Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, 31 March 1924.)

Peter Pond’s maps of 1785 and 1787 refer to it as the “River of Peace”. Other names have included Un-ja-ga/Unjigah, as recorded on a map to accompany Mackenzie’s “Voyage to the Pacific… 1793”. It apparently means Large River in the Beaver language. In 1927, Father Morice, OMI, corroborates this translation by saying the Peace River was known to the Sekani Indians as Thû-tcî-Kah, or Water Great (or Important) River. Another source stated it was a translation of the Slavey word Chin-ch-ago, meaning Beautiful River. The Fort Chipewyan Hudson’s Bay Company post journal of 1822 also refers to it as Rivière de Brochet, referring to the northern pike which were likely found in the river.

Peace River was known as the unijigah of which “peace” is the translation. The Sekani, who dwelt further up the river, knew it as isetaieka, “the river which runs by the rocks,” a reference to its passage through the Rockies. (see “Peace River Was Old Indian Boundary Line” National Resources Canada, December 1927 clipping). Headwaters in British Columbia at 56º01′ – 122º12′ on map 94 B/1. Mouth in Alberta at 59º00′ – 111º25′ on map 74 L/14.

“The exact original meaning of the Indian word “Unchaga” or “Unchagah” or “Unjigah” is not certain. “Unchagah” as the word is usually given, has crept into the everyday language of the Peace River country. In its English translation, “Peace” it is both the name of a great river and of a vast territory. Apparently it is accepted by both of the peoples now known as Beaver Indians and by the Crees, although the last “prophet” of the Halfway Reserve, Charlie Yahey, did not recognize it. One would assume, then that the Western Beavers were not involved in the incident that conferred the name on the region. 
The name “Unjaga” was first officially used, as far as we know, by an Anglican Missionary who built a small mission near the old 1803 trading post close to present day Fort Vermilion. Reverend Garrioch, a true son of the country, liked the Indian name, meaning “Peace”. Bishop Young renamed the place the Irene Mission, since, being a classical scholar from England, he knew that “Irene” also meant “Peace”. Fortunately “Irene” didn’t stick!… 
In the form “unajigaensis” it appears in the scientific or Latinized names of natural history or fossil specimens meaning that the form was first found or identified in this area, or is peculiar to it. It is a “Peace River area thing,” and as such names are recognized worldwide in science…
The location of Peace Point, still so-called on maps of the lower Peace River, marks the scene of the great conference where the pipe of peace was smoked, ending the active wars (but not the local squabbles and hostilities) of the Beavers and the Crees. The Peace River runs almost north-south in the vicinity of Peace Point. The Crees agreed to hunt only on the east side, leaving the west side as the Beavers’ hunting grounds. In ensuing years many Crees occupied the area south of the Peace as the Beavers withdrew further and further west…..” (excerpt from: “The Kelly Lake Metis Settlement” by Dorthea Calverley, published as article 01-068 in History is Where You Stand: a history of the Peace, a project of the Dawson Creek Municipal Library, School District 59, South Peace Historical Society, et al, based on materials in the Calverley collection: www.calverley.ca)

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Alberta Place Names:
Peace; point, Peace river; in the account of his voyage to thé Pacific in 1792-93, Mackenzie narrates that he entered the Peace river on 12 October and continues: “On the 13th at noon we came to the Peace Point, from which, according to the report of my interpreter, the river derives its name; it was the spot where the Knisteneaux [Crees] and Beaver Indians settled their dispute; the real name of the river and point being that of the land which was the object of contention. When this country was formerly invaded by the Knisteneaux, they found the Beaver Indians inhabiting the land about Portage la Loche; and the adjoining tribe were those whom they called slaves. They drove both these tribes before them; when the latter proceeded down the river from the Lake of the Hills [lake Athabaska] in consequence of which that part of it obtained the name of the Slave River. The former proceeded up the river; and when the Knisteneaux made peace with them, this place was settled to be the
1 boundary.’

Peace; river, Mackenzie river; the river has always been known to white men by this name and is so called by Alex. Henry, Peter Pond, Philip Turnor and Sir Alexander Mackenzie. Turnor’s map, 1790, has the inscription “Beaver Indian River, by the Canadians called Peace River,” and describes the land on both sides as “Beaver Indian country.” In Cree, Beaver Indian river is amiskwemoo sipi. Unjigah, meaning “large river”, is another Beaver Indian name mentioned by Mackenzie. The Sekani Indians, who dwell on its upper waters, call the river isetaieka-“the river which runs by the rocks,’ in allusion to its passage of the Rocky mountains.

“Peace River / Rivière de la Paix” is among the 75 “Pan-Canadian names,” large and well-known Canadian features and areas designated in Treasury Board Circular 1983-58 to require presentation in both official languages of Canada on federal maps.

References:

  • Canadian Board on Geographical Names. Place-names of Alberta. Published for the Geographic Board by the Department of the Interior. Ottawa: Department of the Interior, 1928. Hathi Trust
  • British Columbia Geographical Names. Peace River

Columbia River

British Columbia. River: Columbia River drainage
Headwaters are Columbia Lake at Canal Flats
48°59’59” N 117°37’56” W — Map 82F/4 — GoogleGeoHack
Earliest known reference to this name is 1792 (Gray)
Name officially adopted in 1910
Official in BCCanada
Elevation: 3747 m

Adopted in the 9th Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, 1910, as named on maps and charts since 1795.

Called “Oregon River” by Jonathan Carver, 1766. Called “Rio de San Roque” by Bruno Heceta, who discovered the river’s mouth in 1775, and so-labelled on Spanish charts.

Named “Columbia River” in 1792, by Captain Robert Gray of Boston, after his ship Columbia, which entered the mouth of the river in May of that year. The name of Gray’s vessel honours Christopher Columbus, who reached the Americas in 1492.

The name appear on the 1859 Arrowsmith map.

“Columbia River / Fleuve Columbia” is among the 75 “Pan-Canadian names,” large and well-known Canadian features and areas designated in Treasury Board Circular 1983-58 to require presentation in both official languages of Canada on federal maps. In French, a fleuve is a river that flows into an ocean or sea.

References:

  • Arrowsmith, John [1790–1873]. Provinces of British Columbia and Vancouver Island; with portions of the United States and Hudson’s Bay Territories. 1859. UVic
  • British Columbia Geographical Names. Columbia River
  • Wikipedia. Columbia River

Athabasca River

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

“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.”

“Athabasca River / Rivière Athabasca” is among the 75 “Pan-Canadian names,” large and well-known Canadian features and areas designated in Treasury Board Circular 1983-58 to require presentation in both official languages of Canada on federal maps.

References:

  • Thompson, David [1770–1857]. David Thompson’s Narrative of his explorations in western America, 1784-1812. Joseph Burr Tyrrell, editor. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1916. University of British Columbia
  • Simpson, George [1792–1860]. 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. Frederick Merk, editor. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931. University of British Columbia 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
  • Wikipedia. Athabasca River

Athabasca, Lake

Alberta. Lake: Athabasca River drainage
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
Official in Canada
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.”

“Athabasca, Lake / Lac Athabasca” is among the 75 “Pan-Canadian names,” large and well-known Canadian features and areas designated in Treasury Board Circular 1983-58 to require presentation in both official languages of Canada on federal maps.

References:

  • Roberts, Henry. 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. Engraved by Lowry. Cadell and Davies, 1795. Historical Atlas of Canada
  • 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 [1792–1860]. 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. Frederick Merk, editor. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931. University of British Columbia Library
  • Lacombe, Albert [1827–1916]. 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
  • Wikipedia. Lake Athabasca

Rocky Mountains

British Columbia. Mountain range
Northernmost part of western Canada to New Mexico in southwestern United States
54°29’59″N N 122°29’59” W GoogleGeoHack
Earliest known reference to this name is 1752 (Legardeur St. Pierre)
Name officially adopted in 1953
Official in BCCanada
This mountain range appears on:
Arrowsmith 1795 map
Milton and Cheadle 1865 Map

The earliest reference to this mountain chain is that of James Knight (c. 1640–c. 1721) , governor of York Factory who, in his diary for 1716, states that Indians had told him that very far to the west there were prodigious mountains so high “they cannot see the tops without it be clear weather.” The first mention of their present name is to be found in Legardeur St. Pierre’s journal for 1752, which refers to the ‘Montaignes de Roche.’

“Mountains of the bright Stones” on Carver’s map, 1778.

The name of the mountains is a translation of an Amerindian name that is closely related to Algonquian; the Cree name as-sin-wati is given as, “When seen from across the prairies, they looked like a rocky mass”.

The Cree name is Usinnewucheyu, meaning “big rocks” (A Dictionary of the Cree Language, by E.A. Watkins, revised by J.A. Mackay, edited by Richard Faries, 1938). The Sekani name for the Rocky Mountains is Tse Tiy. [meaning/significance and extent not provided] (from Guzagi K’úgé, published by Kaska Tribal Council, Watson Lake, 1997). The Ktunaxa name for the Rocky Mountains is Natmuqc/in, pronounced nath-mook-stin. [meaning/significance and extent not provided] (April 2006 advice from Janice Alpine, Ktunaxa Language Program)

“‘There are no Rocky Mountains’ has been the remark of many a disappointed traveller by the Union or Central Pacific Railways,” wrote George Grant in 1872. “The remark will never be made by those who travel on the Canadian Pacific; there was no ambiguity about these being mountains, nor about where they commenced. The line was defined, and the scarp as clear, as if they had been hewn and chiselled for a fortification. There was nothing fantastic about the mountain forms. Everything was imposing. And these too were ours, an inheritance as precious, if not as plentiful in corn and milk, as the plains they guarded. For mountains elevate the mind, and give an inspiration of courage and dignity to the hardy races who own them and who breathe their atmosphere. We could sympathize with the enthusiast, who returned home after years of absence, and when asked what he had as an equivalent for so much lost time, answered: ‘I have seen the Rocky Mountains.’”

“Rocky Mountains / Montagnes Rocheuses” is among the 75 “Pan-Canadian names,” large and well-known Canadian features and areas designated in Treasury Board Circular 1983-58 to require presentation in both official languages of Canada on federal maps.

References:

  • Knight, James [1640–1721]. Life and death by the frozen sea : the York Fort journals of Hudson’s Bay Company governor James Knight 1714–1717. Edited by Arthur J. Ray. Toronto: The Champlain Society, 2018
  • Arrowsmith, Aaron [1750–1823]. A Map Exhibiting All the New Discoveries in the Interior Parts of North America. Engraved by Lowry. Cadell and Davies, 1795. Historical Atlas of Canada
  • Grant, George Monro [1835–1902]. Ocean to Ocean: Sanford Fleming’s Expedition through Canada in 1872. Being a Diary Kept During a Journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific with the Expedition of the Engineer-in-Chief of the Canadian Pacific and Intercolonial Railways. Toronto: James Campbell and Son, 1873. Google Books
  • Canadian Board on Geographical Names. Place-names of Alberta. Published for the Geographic Board by the Department of the Interior. Ottawa: Department of the Interior, 1928. Hathi Trust
  • Akrigg, Helen B., and Akrigg, George Philip Vernon [1913–2001]. British Columbia Place Names. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997. Internet Archive
  • British Columbia Geographical Names. Rocky Mountains
  • Wikipedia. Rocky Mountains

Fraser River

British Columbia. River: Fraser River drainage
Flows NW from Rocky Mountains
49°07’06” N 123°11’27” W — Map 92G/3 — GoogleGeoHack
Earliest known reference to this name is 1813 (David Thompson)
Name officially adopted in 1910
Official in BCCanada
Simon Fraser

Simon Fraser

The river is named after Simon Fraser, who led an expedition in 1808 on behalf of the North West Company from the site of present-day Prince George almost to the mouth of the river. The river’s name in the Halqemeylem (Upriver Halkomelem) language is Sto:lo, often seen archaically as Staulo, and has been adopted by the Halkomelem-speaking peoples of the Lower Mainland as their collective name, Sto:lo. The river’s name in the Dakelh language is Lhtakoh. The Tsilhqot’in name for the river, not dissimilar to the Dakelh name, is ʔElhdaqox, meaning Sturgeon (ʔElhda-chugh) River (Yeqox).

The name was officially adopted by the Geographic Board of Canada in 1910, as long-identified on maps and in journals. The name was re-approved in in 1915 to specifically identify the Faser River as the main channel sometimes known as the South Fork Fraser River (the portion between Yellowhead Lake and Prince George), the North Fork being the current McGregor River. The names “Fraser River” and “North Fork” appear on the 1859 Arrowsmith map.

The Fraser River was discovered by Alexander Mackenzie during his journey to the Pacific in 1793. On a map printed with his Voyages in 1801, Mackenzie called the river “Tacoutche Tesse, or Columbia River.” The Spanish explorers never found their way up the mouth of the Fraser, but in 1791, finding evidence that they were near the mouth of a major river, they named it “Rio Floridablanca” in honor of the prime minister of Spain. The Fraser River was also known in the early days as the New Caledonia River. It was named after Simon Fraser in 1813 by David Thompson (the Thompson River was given its name by Fraser).

North West Company explorer Simon Fraser (1776–1862) opened the fur trade west of the Rocky Mountains, and was the first white man to descend the Fraser River to its mouth. Fraser was born in Bennington, Vermont, and came to Québec with his mother after his father, a Loyalist officer, died as a prisoner of war during the American revolution. Fraser joined the North West Company in 1792 and was sent to the Athabasca department. He became a partner in the company in 1801. He founded the New Caledonia posts of McLeod Lake (1805), Stuart Lake (later Fort St. James, 1806), Fraser Lake (1806) and Fort George (1807).

During May and June of 1808, with a party of nineteen French Canadian voyageurs, two clerks, and two Native Americans, Fraser made his journey down the Fraser River from just upstream of present-day Prince George to present-day Vancouver. It was a bitter disappointment for him to discover that the river was not the Columbia, and that it was not a practical canoe route to the coast.

“Fraser River / Fleuve Fraser” is among the 75 “Pan-Canadian names,” large and well-known Canadian features and areas designated in Treasury Board Circular 1983-58 to require presentation in both official languages of Canada on federal maps. In French, a fleuve is a river that flows into an ocean or sea.

References:

  • 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
  • Fraser, Simon [1776–1862]. The letters and journals of Simon Fraser, 1806-1808. Edited by W. Kaye Lamb. Toronto: MacMillan, 1960. Internet Archive
  • Thompson, David [1770–1857]. David Thompson’s Narrative of his explorations in western America, 1784-1812. Joseph Burr Tyrrell, editor. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1916. University of British Columbia
  • Arrowsmith, John [1790–1873]. Provinces of British Columbia and Vancouver Island; with portions of the United States and Hudson’s Bay Territories. 1859. UVic
  • 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
  • Story, Norah. The Oxford Companion to Canadian History and Literature. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1967
  • Akrigg, Helen B., and Akrigg, George Philip Vernon [1913–2001]. British Columbia Place Names. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997. Internet Archive
  • British Columbia Geographical Names. Fraser River
  • Wikipedia. Fraser River

British Columbia

British Columbia. Province
Western-most province in Canada
Earliest known reference to this name is 1858 (Queen Victoria)
Name officially adopted in 1858
Official in BCCanada

When an influx of American gold-miners prompted Great Britain to proclaim this crown colony in 1858, the name choosen commemorated not so much the Portuguese navigator as it did the United States ship Columbia, which sailed into the estuary of the river in 1792. Captain Robert Grey fired the ship’s cannons at the canoes of the local Indians who paddled out to investigate.

The southern part of what is now the province of British Columbia was known as the Columbia Department during the fur-trade ear. Although the major portion of British Columbia was called New Caledonia by the fur-traders, this name (duplicated in the South Pacific) was discarded by Queen Victoria in favor of the present name.

The name appear on the 1859 Arrowsmith map, entitled “Provinces of British Columbia and Vancouver Island; with portions of the United States and Hudson’s Bay Territories.”

“British Columbia / Colombie-Britannique” is among the 75 “Pan-Canadian names,” large and well-known Canadian features and areas designated in Treasury Board Circular 1983-58 to require presentation in both official languages of Canada on federal maps.

References:

  • Arrowsmith, John [1790–1873]. Provinces of British Columbia and Vancouver Island; with portions of the United States and Hudson’s Bay Territories. 1859. UVic
  • British Columbia Geographical Names. British Columbia
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