Postcard view of the SS Nasookin and Streetcar 23 when the former was being operated as a gift shop by the Carney and Galbraith families in the 1960s. The boat took its name from the Ktunaxa word for chief and in turn gave its name to the subdivision where its remains now sit. Art Stevens photo

Postcard view of the SS Nasookin and Streetcar 23 when the former was being operated as a gift shop by the Carney and Galbraith families in the 1960s. The boat took its name from the Ktunaxa word for chief and in turn gave its name to the subdivision where its remains now sit. Art Stevens photo

PLACE NAMES: Indigenous names of West Kootenay

Three hundred eighth in a series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

Among the many named West Kootenay geographic features are several unique subsets. The first are the Ktunaxa and Sinixt names, of which lamentably few remain widely used. But there are some high-profile ones.

Kootenay is a corruption of Ktunaxa, one of the people on whose traditional territory we live. It’s officially spelled Kootenay in Canada, and Kootenai in the U.S., but there are many other spelling variations as well, including Kutenai and Kootenae. Kootenay is part of 35 official geographic names in BC.

Kokanee is from the Sinixt word for landlocked salmon, kekeni. It’s applied to a dozen official geographic features in BC and also used to refer to the fish species throughout United States and Canada. The establishment of the beer of the same name in 1960 further spread the word far and wide.

Slocan is from the Sinixt word slhu7kíń, meaning “to pierce, strike on the head,” in reference to the Sinixt practice of harpooning salmon. Slocan is part of 14 official geographic names, plus some other unofficial ones.

Nakusp is from the Sinixt word nkwsp, although its meaning is in doubt. One theory says it means “something in the lake that comes together.” The other says it’s a part of human anatomy. In addition to the village, Nakusp is also the name of a creek, range, and hot springs.

Kaslo might be derived from kala, the Ktunaxa term for black hawthorn. Then again, kali’so was a Sinixt name for a place on Trout Lake. In addition to the village, Kaslo is the name of a bay, lake, river, and mountain.

Comaplix and Incomappleux both come from the Sinixt nk’mapeleks, meaning “point at the end of lake.” But while the pronunciation of Comaplix is pretty close to nk’mapeleks, for some reason Incomappleux is commonly pronounced as though it was a French word.

Comaplix is the name of a ghost town on the Beaton Arm of Upper Arrow Lake as well as a creek and mountain. Incomappleux is a river that flows into the lake.

Whatshan is an Indigenous name, and has been on the map as a lake since at least the 1860s, but its meaning and derivation are not known. It’s also a peak, range, and river.

• Similarly, the derivation of Inonoaklin is unclear although has been around just as long. Officially it’s the name of a creek, mountain, and provincial park. Unofficially it’s a valley.

Kuskonook (also spelled Kuskanook) is derived from the Ktunaxa ʔa•q̓asak, meaning “close, near, against the edge of something” plus ʔa•kuq̓nuk meaning “lake.” But it’s unclear if it is related to Kuxnanax, the name of a creek and mountain at Nakusp. The latter is said to be from the Sinixt term kwusxenaks, meaning “long point; point of land sticking out.”

Akokli Creek on Kootenay Lake, near Boswell, is named for the Ktunaxa word for horn of an animal, ʔa·kuqǂi. The Akolkolex River, which flows into Upper Arrow Lake below Revelstoke, may or may not be related.

• The Nasookin subdivision on Nasookin Road, on Kootenay Lake’s North Shore, is named after the SS Nasookin, whose remains have been turned into a home there. The boat in turn was named for the Ktunaxa word for “the high,” “the great,” or “the chief.”

Illecillewaet is officially a railway point, glacier, and river near Revelstoke, derived from the Sinixt sʔixwʔitw, meaning big water.

Many other indigenous names were recorded but have fallen off the map.

One such example is Quilquiliskin, listed in James White’s Altitudes in Canada (1915) as a creek along the Nakusp and Slocan Railway, 1.8 miles south of Brouse station and 4.6 miles north of Summit station. This is presumably today’s Wensley Creek (formerly Seven Mile Creek).

McDonald Creek, which flows into Upper Arrow Lake south of Nakusp, was formerly Slewiskin Creek, as labelled on 1871 and 1884 maps.

In the Arrow Lakes News of June 19, 1958, Lottie Miner Morton urged that Slewiskin be retained: “It is an Indian name meaning little brown bear … Since our world is getting smaller and there is a McDonald Creek north of Trout Lake draining into Duncan river lake and then south to the Kootenay, it might be confusing for a Nelson fisherman to wire a coast nimrod ‘Meet me at McDonalds Creek June 30’ and have one one turn up in the Lardeau and one in the Nakusp district. So let’s stick to Slewiskin for our stream.”

However, the name was officially changed to McDonald Creek in 1990.

We’ll look at another unique subset of names next week.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Castlegar City Council at a January Zoom meeting. Clockwise: Maria McFaddin, Bergen Price, Sue Heaton-Sherstibitoff, Cherryl MacLeod, Florio Vassilakakis, Dan Rye.
Castlegar council temporarily fills vacancies left by departing mayor

Councillor Dan Rye will serve as the acting mayor until the byelection

Interior Health has set up a COVID-19 testing site in Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
No new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in Castlegar for Jan. 3-9

The BCDCD has begun to report more localized COVID-19 numbers in recent weeks

Community mental health workers are in high demand, and a new program at Selkirk College will provide opportunities in this field. File Photo
Selkirk College to train community mental health workers

Twelve students will complete two courses enabling them to work in health and human services

The City of Castlegar plans to move to renewable energy by 2050. Photo: Betsy Kline
City of Castlegar adopts West Kootenay 100% Renewable Energy Plan

It represents a commitment to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

A memorial for the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving

Cumberland photographer Sara Kemper recently took the top spot in a Canadian Geographic photography contest. Photo by Sara Kemper
B.C. photographer takes top Canadian Geographic photo prize

Sara Kemper shows what home means to her in Comox Valley photo

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

Most Read