It seems appropriate in our blog series about places in British Columbia used as room names in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre to address researching the origin of place names. There are a number of sources that are useful for researching place names, and one here at UBC is the Norman Ogg Place Name Collection (see the finding aid here). In 1979-1980, Norman Ogg undertook a study of the origins of place names in Canada (excepting Quebec) and Washington State. He received many letters from town and city clerks and archivists explaining the origin behind their city’s name, as well as a number of ephemeral items such as brochures.
The place we are examining this week is Keremeos. Keremeos is located in the Southern Interior of British Columbia and is in the Similkameen Valley. The aboriginal people of this area, the Sylix, are now part of the Okanagan Nation Alliance. Horticulture and agriculture are the main industries in Keremeos, and the area is also home to Cathedral Provincial Park. As Norman Ogg learned from the clerk of the Village of Keremeos in 1980, there are two theories behind the name Keremeos: it was believed to be derived from the Aboriginal language of the area to mean either “wind channel in the mountains” or “cut in two by water,” referring to the Similkameen River.
(Click on the image of the letter to see a larger version).
Other sources for place names in British Columbia include BC Geographical Names (a free online resource), The encyclopedia of raincoast place names by Andrew Scott and many other books available at UBC Library which can be browsed by subject in the catalogue.
The earliest source for B.C. place names was written by Captain John Walbran, captain of the S.S. Quadra. This photograph is from the Chung Collection, which also contains a copy of Walbran’s book British Columbia Coast Names, and one of his chief officer’s logs.
As described by the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Walbran’s Coast Names is “an amazing grab-bag of history, biography, and anecdote,” and a “rich mass of anecdotes and digressions.” It is a well-known and well-used source of British Columbia history.
In the Barber Centre, the Keremeos Lounge is on the second floor, adjacent to Ike’s Cafe on the south side of the building. A great place to have a cup of coffee and read up on B.C. place names!