Salt Spring Island Archives

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First Nations of Salt Spring Island

topographical map showing Indigenous place names on Saltspring Island

Indigenous Placenames
of Salt Spring Island

Compiled by Chris Arnett from information provided by Elders in the area: Earle Claxton Sr., Ray Sam, Henry Edwards, Ernie Rice, Louis Pelkey, Christopher Paul, Richard Harry, Ernie Olsen, Bob Akerman, Luschiim (Arvid Charlie), August Sylvester, Dave Elliott, J’SINTEN (John Elliott) ȻOSINIYE (Lindy Elliott) and SELILIYE (Belinda Claxton).

Select the language to view place names. Click individual place names (or tap on touch devices like mobile phones and tablets) to see the meaning and access a link for more information. Click again to hide.
Click the volume_up icon to hear the pronunciation of the name.

P’q’unup volume_up
Southey Point
white ground
Hwtl’elhum volume_up
North end of Salt Spring/St Mary’s Lake
place of salt
Stulan volume_up
Vesuvius Bay
Stl’e’lan volume_up
Booth Bay
Suy’q’mun’ volume_up
Walker’s Hook
burnt wood
Tat’mul volume_up
Outer Booth Bay
luke warm
TOMMEL volume_up
Outer Booth Bay
luke warm
Sansum Narrows
little less luke warm
Shcha’nus volume_up
Booth Canal
Hwtselu’um volume_up
Entrance to Booth Canal
place of poles made by stripping the bark of young fir trees
Shiya’hwt volume_up
SYOWT volume_up
be cautious of it
Chain Islands
Stsa’tx volume_up
ȾO,TX volume_up
Long Harbour
Hwmet’utsun volume_up
Mount Maxwell
bent over place
(S)lhukw’lhukw’us volume_up
Bluffs below Baynes Peak
sound of eagle’s wings as it flies away
MENMONTOḰ volume_up
Bluffs below Baynes Peak
sound of eagle’s wings as it flies away
Xwaaqw’um volume_up
Burgoyne Bay
place of the female merganser duck
XOEKKEM volume_up
Burgoyne Bay
place of the female merganser duck
Shlhemuxutum volume_up
Sansum Narrows lookout
none yet
Q’i’q’uw’utum’ volume_up
place near Bold Bluffs
little drummer
(S)qwtha’thun volume_up
mouth of Fulford creek
the rear end lowered
Hwune’nuts volume_up
WENÁ,NEĆ volume_up
Fulford Harbour
the rear end lowered
ŚXEXÁYÁLE volume_up
waterfall close to Bold Bluff
the crying place for everyone
Shhwuhwa’us’elu volume_up
cave inland south of Bold Bluffs
place of thunderbird
Qw’atth’a’qw volume_up
Musgrave Rock
excrement on head
KOȾEḰ volume_up
bird mess head
(S)tsuw’een’ volume_up
SĆU,ÁN volume_up
straight down to the water’s edge
beach at Cape Keppel
Shquaalus volume_up
two places
Shquaalus volume_up
two places
(S)xelequn volume_up
Place/pond on Mount Tuam
the Lightning Eyed
P’akw-nuhw volume_up
small rock west of IR 5
managing to bring it up
Ts’amuqw’us volume_up
SȾOM,E,ḰWAS volume_up
Russell Island
timber giant/sasquatch
(S)ts’usna’um’ volume_up
ȾESNOEN volume_up
Beaver Point
the tide hits head on
TÁLEN volume_up
Isabella Point

Some Hul’q’umi’num’ speakers refer to the island in general as Tl’elhum. This reflects the proximity of their winter villages on Vancouver Island and Penelakut Island to the north half of Saltspring Island and to the important placename, Tl’elhum or Hwtl’elhum.

Some SENĆOŦEN speakers refer to the island in general as ĆU,ÁÁN volume_up. This reflects the proximity of their winter villages on Vancouver Island to the south end of Saltspring Island and to the important placename, SĆU,ÁN.

The Salt Spring Island Archives acknowledges that maps such as this are in themselves a colonial concept. This map is presented solely in the interest of education around Indigenous placenames that have been shared with us and the correct pronunciation of these names

In 2003-2004, the late Frank Neumann and Chris Arnett, under the auspices of the Salt Spring Island Historical Society, initiated the idea of working with First Nation’s elders with family connections to Salt Spring Island to record placenames and any other information they were willing to share. With funding provided for travel expenses, the primary author and Barbara Lyngard, initiated contacts and interviews with Hul’q’umi’num’ and SENĆOŦEN-speaking elders in their communities regarding Indigenous history and placenames on Salt Spring Island. The participation, consent and contributions of the late Earl Claxton Sr (W̱SÁNEĆ), the late Ray Sam, (WSANEĆ) the late Henry Edwards (Penelakut), the late Ernie Rice (Quw’utsun Mustimuhw), the late Bob Akerman (Quw’utsun Mustimuhw), Arvid Charlie (Quw’utsun Mustimuhw), and August Sylvester (Penelakut) provide the substance of this work and are gratefully acknowledged. The map is not an exhaustive list of placenames for Salt Spring Island (See Elliot 1981:19-40; Rozen 1985; Cowichan Tribes 2007, 138-140). Placenames have been omitted for space, privacy and ongoing treaty negotiations but even this small sample shows the diversity and span of Salt Spring Island Indigenous history encoded on the island.

Prior to settlement by non-indigenous people Salt Spring Island was, for generations, lived on and accessed by families who spoke either one or both of two languages, SENĆOŦEN and Hul’q’umi’num’. On linguistic maps the island is often shown bisected by a linguistic boundary which reflects historical use of the island by speakers of these languages (Suttles 1990, 485-502; Peter, n.d., Elliot, 1990, 30-32, Map 2, Cowichan tribes 2007, Map 2). Of 34 known Indigenous placenames on Salt Spring Island, five are recognized as official placenames in the SENĆOŦEN language (Montler 2018, 987). All are located on the south half of the island closest to the winter villages of the Saanich Peninsula just as the more predominant Hul’q’umi’num’ placenames names reflect proximity to the Hul’q’umi’num’-speaking communities of Cowichan, Halalt, Chemainus, Lyackson, and Penelakut Island. All but one of the SENĆOŦEN names have the same or very similar meaning and pronunciations as Hul’q’umi’num’ names reflecting the obvious closeness of the languages and cultures. Saanich historian Dave Elliot Sr. identified 11 Salt Spring Island placenames all but one identical to the Hul’q’umi’num’ counterpart (Elliot 1985, 30-32).

Indigenous placenames document indigenous history, occupation and land use. As Saanich scholar Dave Elliot, in his book Saltwater People, wrote: “We gave names to all the places that we knew. Every bay, every stream, every village. Every island, every mountain, every lake had a name in our language” (Elliot 1985, 16). According to Hul’q’umi’num’-speaking scholar, the late Ruby Peter (nd.2):

Names were given by the native people to various locations, usually designating summer or winter encampments of various families. So it is that an island would have several names for the various locations on that island. The Hul’q’umi’num’ names would be descriptive. They would describe either what grows there, or how the land is shaped, or what happened to the land form.

The historical and cultural continuity of the Salish language and the Salish people suggests that many Indigenous placenames predate non-indigenous arrival and non-indigenous notions of history of the area. This is especially true of placenames that document swiem, or origin stories, ancient narratives tied to landscapes that relayed the philosophies or value systems of Indigenous people, as well as syuth, the histories of human behaviour in the past re-told as cultural teachings. Placenames can describe the physical appearance of topographical and oceanographical features as well as the associated stories and teachings. As such, Indigenous placenames incorporate indigenous knowledge into non-indigenous ways of knowing (Harris 2006, 34).

On linguistic maps, Salt Spring Island is often shown bisected by a linguistic boundary between two Coast Salish languages, Hul’q’umi’num’ and SENĆOŦEN. These maps were based on the work of 19th century ethnographers who aligned language boundaries with reserves allocated in the late 1870’s. Because the reserve in Fulford Harbour was gazetted as a Saanich reserve, linguistic maps include the area within a SENĆOŦEN zone even though Hul’q’umi’num’- speaking people also had a presence there.

Placenames in the Straits Salish dialect of SENĆOŦEN, used by the Saanich, occur on the south end of the island, as do Hul’q’umi’num’ placenames while to the north, placenames in the closely related Hul’q’umi’num’ language predominate (Suttles,1990:154). This pattern reflects the proximity of these places to the main winter villages of the respective peoples on Vancouver Island. The late Saanich historian Earl Claxton Sr. related what an elder told him:

He said that Saanich names slices Salt Spring right in half. When you get over to the north side of Salt Spring it turns into the Cowichan language. With that, we respect them, we respect it, that’s within their territory.

Both Hul’q’umi’num’ and SENĆOŦEN-speaking elders recognize that their interests in the island are limited to the extent of recorded place-names many of which are shared by the two languages, particularly in the southern portion of the island (Peters, n.d., Elliot, 1990:30-32, Map 2, Cowichan tribes, 2007, Map 2). Despite the linguistic divide, there are few significant major cultural differences between the people, and “some kind of social unity is suggested” by an identical system of kinship terminology (Suttles, 1960:304) with customary land use patterns based on extended family connections established through marriage. The Indigenous toponymy imbricates linguistic borders as reminders of the interconnected social fabric and a former system of mutually recognized beneficial rights and privileges in connection to land.

Within this system social groups could establish themselves more permanently in areas over time by historical opportunity or circumstance. Archaeological evidence suggests the presence of up to dozen former settlement sites, probably occupied at different times over the millennia and numerous other locations associated with human behaviour in the past. These areas extend from the shoreline to the higher elevations of the island. Coastal landscapes on Salt Spring Island which may appear natural are in fact anthropogenic or culturally produced landscapes made over the millennia. According to oral tradition the island was severely depopulated by an epidemic most likely the great smallpox epidemic of 1782. Such an event had a severe impact on settlement pattern in the region. At the same time, slave-based economy (capitalism) introduced by Europeans, changed the indigenous economy and lifestyle with increased warfare between unrelated groups occurring as they came into conflict.

It was during this time that exposed populations on the Gulf islands relocated to larger villages on Vancouver Island. A permanent SENĆOŦEN speaking population left their villages at SYOWT, WENÁ,NEC and possibly other areas prior to 1843 to a better defensive position at TSAWAUTX on the west side of the Saanich Peninsula (Suttles,1951). Within twenty years the Saanich districts on Salt Spring Island were occupied by Hwunitum (non-native European ancestry) many of whom married Hul’qumi’num’ women who with their families strengthened the Hul’qumi’num presence at Fulford harbour and Beaver Point. In the late 1860’s and early 1870’s a half-dozen Hawaiian men and their Kwantlen and Songhees wives pre-empted lands in Fulford harbour. Their children married Indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Many indigenous placenames on Salt Spring Island are associated with “food gathering and processing area”, old settlement sites large and small, as well as cemeteries, Intergenerational teaching occurred during regular family excursions on the land and sea with important land marks and stories connected with them shared. “There’s a meaning to every name they give.” Ernie Rice said, “I never had to ask. You don't ask.” Hul’q’umi’num-speaking scholar Arvid Charlie, compares the significance of a place name to that of ancestral names bestowed upon people “because it gives you the history for those that know the history.” The descriptive quality of placenames in reference to “what grows there”, “how the land was shaped” and “what happened to the land form” link material (physical place) and non-material spaces (the associated stories and teachings). While many placenames are known and shared on this map, the impact of colonization and colonialism has erased many more.

Indigenous placenames harbour much information regarding Indigenous history and Indigenous ways of knowing “because it gives you the history for those that know the history.” To know the history requires study. In 2003 when I interviewed the late Ernie Rice in his home at Malahat I told him that I wanted to know about all the indigenous placenames on Salt Spring Island. He closed his eyes, frowned and thought for a while. Then he told me a story about the time he was pit lamping on the Fulford Reserve with his Uncle Sandy Pelky:

And we stopped to have lunch, you know, and he tells me the name of the reef, and he had names for eeeevery little island, eeeevery little bay around Salt Spring. There’s no English names. And coming through Fulford Harbour where the ferry comes in [west of Jackson Islets] They call it p’akwnuhw. That means float, p’akwnuhw
Q: And that name conjures up what?
A: ‘cause even if it’s not blowing or anything, even though its not wavy you see it [the waves lapping against the submerged reef] and they call it p’akwnuhw [“float; surfacing; come to surface” (Hukari and Peter 1995, 54]. There’s a lot of meaning to the islands, a lot of meaning to the reefs, if you study it. You gotta study it. You don't just say it’s all bullshit.

I knew the place he was talking about, an inconspicuous, often submerged rock,that rarely showed. He was telling me that placenames were everywhere: While many Indigenous placenames on Salt Spring Island have disappeared, known placenames are an appropriate way to incorporate indigenous knowledge into what Elizabeth Furniss (1997/98, 7) calls “the landscape of Public History.”



As Arvid Charlie explains, this placename is descriptive of the place as a former village site and food producing area:

It’s called p’q’unup (“white ground”) because the beach used to be just white with shells, so it actually seemed white ground. It was a very important place because many different communities came there to tth’hwas, steam the clams open. Not too long ago some of the posts of old houses were still there, late ‘40’s, early ‘50’s. Posts were still there from the longhouses.

P’q’unup in 1960 showing the estuary and former village site before significant land alteration. Visible as the bushy area with dead trees in the lower centre of the “white shell ground”. Marshall Sharp photo. Salt Spring Island Archives.
P’q’unup in 1960 showing the estuary and former village site before significant land alteration. Visible as the bushy area with dead trees in the lower centre of the “white shell ground”. Marshall Sharp photo. Salt Spring Island Archives.

The late Henry Edwards, who was born in 1919 at Hwlumelhtsu (Lamalchi Bay on Penelakut Island) remembered P’q’unup as a popular food gathering area. He referred to it as ‘unup (‘ground’) and noted that the area was used primarily by people from the Chemainus River (Westholme) and the three villages on Penelakut Island (See also Rozen 1985, 120). For him, ‘unup , was also well-known for its spring-water, sea urchins and duck-hunting:

P’q’unup. That was just a real camping ground for the Indians. Nothing but white shells there. You could see ‘em yet. There’s lots of white people there now, ‘cause there’s nice fresh water up just behind that hill. Good, spring water. The Indians dug that thing or something [a well]. Its about the size of this table, that. Just real nice to see that. Now it’s all spoiled. Lots of white people living on the island, on top of the hill, on the north end of Salt Spring. There’s no white people there a long time ago. There’s even them people from Westholme? [Xulel-thw (Halalt, Chemainus River]. They going down there to camp one day, Westholme goes there, like, in clam season times. That’s a big point there, you know. They’d have quite a few tents there. They used to have that other kind of reed tents. Yeah, they have that a long time ago. In them days they used to use a coal oil lantern. Some of them, they used, they made a sleigh and have a four gallon can in there and they have that pitch [Pseudotsuga menziesii] they use that pitch in the can to make a light and use that. They would see along ways at night you know, a long time ago. They use that for clam digging at night. Nothing but Indians from Kuper Island and Westholme. They all had their tents up there at ‘unup. I did that sea urchin. I’d go down to that point where the lighthouse is [Southey Point]. Did some of that. Shoot ducks there, once in a while. Used to be lots of those long necks in there, in my days anyhow. But after that the white people built there and they started chasing the Indians away half way to that long wharf, Fernwood. Between there and that ‘unup. There’s lots of those Jap clams [Venerupis phillipinarum] there. Just between those rocky places, right? Oh, there’s lots. Them white people started chasing them Indians. They say its private land and the Indians can’t go in there and dig clams. My late wife and I used to go all over Ganges digging them manilas.

The general area of P’q’unup is also the setting for a Puneluxutth’ oral tradition of the story of Tsuhatlutz, a female being who appeared on the beach from the sea and stole children by covering their eyes with pitch and putting them in baskets to eat. After taking the children she stepped from P’q’unup over the water to Vancouver Island (Harris,2004:41, Florence James, personal communication; Andy Crocker, personal communication). Andy Crocker also said that the area at the north end harbored Tsumuqwus, or “timber giants” (Jenness 1934/35:21) and Squwiye (hairy wild people) (Andy Croker, p.c.).



Hwtl’elhum (“place of salt”) often shortened to Tl’elhum (“salt”) is the Hul’q’umi’num’ word for St Mary’s Lake and a general term for the area of salt springs located inland north of St Mary’s Lake and present-day Fernwood (Rozen,1985, 257-258; Cowichan Tribes, 2007, 138,140). August Sylvester used to visit the Fernwood area from Penelkaut as a youth, with his family to buy or trade wool: “that’s Salt Spring. Tle’lhum, that’s the only name I knew this island by. My Grandfather would say, “Nem tst Tle’lhum,” (“We’re going to Tle’lhum”) and as soon as he says that I know I’m going in that direction.”

The name Salt Spring is an English translation of the ancient Hul’q’umi’num’ placename and makes its earliest appearance on an 1853 map of the area (Leyland 2013, Fig.69) While the 1853 map showed the name inside the north end of the island where it should be, Captain Walter Grant of Sooke, writing in 1856, gave the name Saltspring to the entire island (Walbran 1907, 436). Salt Spring Island, Penelakut Island and Lummi Island are the only islands in the Salish Archipelago to retain something of the Indigenous past in their modern placenames.

The prefix χa in the word χatsa (lake) shows the sacred nature of inland waters and as the largest lake in the Salish Archipelago St. Mary’s had obvious cultural importance. It is not saline but runoff from the saltsprings contribute to periodic cyanobacteria blooms and colour changes which make the lake distinctive and may have been part of its reputation as a spiritual bathing place. In keeping with the sanctity of such places there are few stories. “My grandfather never told me anything about that [lake]”, recalls August Sylvester, “but I’m sure there was a lot of use for that [lake].”

Indigenous people, probably from Lamalcha, Penelakut and Halalt, also accessed the lake via Duck Creek to collect tule reeds for mat-making into the early 1900’s (Ivan Mouat, personal communication 2002). Henry Edwards heard that there were hunting blind locations on the lake for deer and elk where “you would wait for something to come down and take a drink.” He also recalled a story that people fled there following the bombardment of the Hwlumeltsa village on Penelakut Island, just north of Salt Spring Island, in 1863 (Arnett 1999, 134-139). “That St. Mary’s Lake, I never seen it for a long time. That’s where the Indians took off when they bombed that Lamalchi Bay. Some of them went there and hide away, you know?”

Hwtl’elhum was the site of the first organized occupation of the island by non-natives in July, 1859 who occupied large lots on the northeast side of the island from Walker’s Hook to Southey Point (Arnett, 1999, 76-77). During his visit in 1860, the Anglican Bishop Hills noted: “There are sixteen settlers, mostly young men. Nearly all are living with Indian women” (Bagshaw 1996, 226). At least one of these women, Mary Peatson was related to Penelakut and it is likely that the settlement flourished on account of agreement with Penelakut families. Her uncle Yeweluptun lived and worked on one of the settler “claims” at present-day Fernwood and was buried “according to Indian tradition” (Walter 1943, 55). Up until the mid 20th century people from Penelakut Island came regularly to the Fernwood area to sell fish, dig clams, visit and purchase wool, particularly black wool, from island families such as the Sampsons who had Penelakut ancestry.

Stsa’tx / ȾO,TX


Stsa’tx (“halibut”) is the Hul’q’umi’num’ word for Long Harbour, a narrow 5 km inlet north east side of the island and is named for both the fish found in its waters and a natural image of a halibut said to be visible in the sandstone on the north shore near the entrance to the harbour (Andy Crocker, personal communication, 2001). Hul’qumi’num’ and Saanich people recall the importance and richness of seasonal food gathering activities at Stsa’tx which included sea mammal hunting, herring roe collection, duck hunting, lingcod, clams and of course, the halibut (Rozen, 1985, 244). Arvid Charlie was told:

Stsa’tx is “halibut”. Sts’atx is Long Harbour. I’m told that at certain times the sts’atx or the halibut would go in there. They’d go to the shallows. From what I’m told, they’re normally a deepwater fish, but at certain times they go into the shallows. You can spear them.

The little bit that I know of it. There used to be a lot of ducks in there. It used to be a very good place to get ducks. Earlier we used to put up nets for the ducks. Then, later on, it was also a good place for a shotgun. They just kind of lined up, two or three canoes came in and then the ducks could all be pushed in, and then, at some time or another, they have to fly out. That wasn't the only place for ducks. The whole Ganges area was great for ducks, Ganges and Fulford.

During the early 20th century seasonal migrations to the hop farms of Washington State, Hul’q’umi’num’-speaking people stopped at Long Harbour, Prevost Island and Welbury Bay in Ganges Harbour to harvest clams, and other foods to supplement store bought supplies.

Henry Edwards and his wife often visited Stsa’tx as commercial clam diggers harvesting Venerupis phillipinarum or Manila clam. This clam was introduced accidently with oyster seed from Japan. This is recognized by the indigenous name for the manila (che’ch-puni) and the fact that it has “yellow” meat. It proliferated and soon became commercially valuable. “We go to that place, that’s where the fresh water is. Long Harbour. There’s fresh water flowing in there. Indian name for that Long Harbour is Stsa’tx. There’s fresh water way in the bay there. Them manilas like that fresh water and they grow along both sides of that Stsa’tx, way out to the head of the bay.”

Xwaaqw’um / XOEKKEM


Xwaaqw’um is “female merganser duck place” in Hul’q’umi’num’ and named for the merganser duck. Hul’q’umi’num’- speaking people from Llumlumluts on the Cowichan River, and other places, accessed this area for many resources including the merganser duck which was netted and speared here with other waterfowl during the summer and autumn months (Rozen,1985:134). Merganser duck feathers are also important in ceremonial dance regalia. Xwaaqw’um was also a good place to hunt sea mammals, rake herring and collect spawn in spring and to dig for clams. The presence of extensive Garry Oak habitat in the Burgoyne Valley and on the slopes of Mount Maxwell suggests the former importance of camas harvesting and processing. A large sandstone bowl near the shoreline by the creek was owned by the family of Tosiclum from Lhumlhumluts’ and used to process salal berries and camas (Bob Akerman, personal communication, 1999). By the mid 19th century the area was looked after by a family from Lhumlhumluts’ village on the Cowichan delta who maintained dwellings there. A descendant, the late Bob Akerman, (personal communication, 1999) recalled Xwaaqw’um in his grandmother’s time:

That was her [Tuhawi’ya’s] Dad’s camp. They owned the property and they used to stay there. The Indians didn't just use the land occasionally—they owned it. If others wanted to fish or hunt in that area they’d have to get permission. That did cause a little discontent at times but there was never any fighting.

There used to be a little creek and they used to camp by there and they’d fish for chum and coho. The creek was narrow and they were easy to catch. They’d fish mostly in the creek. They’d just use a gaff. Creeks not that big and you could easily see the fish.

They used to burn off that area above Burgoyne under Mount Maxwell. They’d burn all that — several acres. After the ashes cooled it made a good seed bed for the lacamas [camas] and they’d put seed in. Also the burning was good for attracting deer. When you kept big open areas like that all the salal, Oregon grape grows and the deer would come in, where if it was heavy timbered country the deer won’t come in.

Around 1860, Irish immigrant John Maxwell pre-empted land at Xwaaqw’um and married Mary, a daughter of the great Cowichan war leader Tsuwxilum (killed 1849)(Dodds, nd). Another Cowichan man, Tousilum, in the 1860’s as the head of this family, arranged for two of his daughters to marry two European settlers, Theodore Traige and Michael Gyves on the south end of the island, thus legitimizing their right to occupy the land. After 160 years of local management of mixed farming, cattle and dairy, the Burgoyne area became a provincial park with input in areas of habitat restoration and public education by Cowichan Tribe descendants and members and cross-cultural NGO’s such as the Stqeeye’ Learning Society.



I was told this placename for Booth canal by the late Bob Guerin (personal communication 1999) who associated it with the entrance to Booth Canal and translates thus: hw (place of) tsel’um “using fir pole skids”. The name indicates what grows there and how it was used referring to the felling and debarking of young fir trees to make slippery poles to skid canoes (sh-shuts’uw’ulh) along sections of the overland canoe route between Booth canal and Ganges (see Shiya'wt).

Shiya’hwt / SYOWT


This placename refers to Ganges harbour and the site of the town of Ganges, an area well used in the past by Indigenous people from Saanich, Vancouver Island, Valdez Island, Penelakut Island and Nanaimo (Rozen 1985,243; Mayne 1862, 164). The name is the same in both SENĆOŦEN and Hul’q’umi’num’ languages and describes aspects of its geography and history. The root of this word is SYO (SENĆOŦEN) or syáʔ in Hul’q’umi’num’ which has the meaning “to be careful, cautious” (Montler 2018, 604) or ‘beware” (Hukari and Peter 1993, 89). As Earl Claxton Sr. explained:

SYOWT – that’s Ganges. “place of caution”, is it? The late Dave Elliot said that was the “the original Saanich home base,” that’s exactly the way he worded it. How long ago that was I have no idea. That’s beyond me. SYOWT—that’s an old name. You can really tell by the way it sounds. Old name.” SYOWT—SYOW is caution and the “t” is “he”, “she”, or “it.” It’s a great place for the south east wind would be barrelling in there and also its quite open to the Northern people there. That was one of the last fights they had with them [northerners]. I think they were on their boats, canoes or whatever… followed them in. By the time the canoes hit the beach they were dead.

Claxton identifies the name with the exposed nature of the harbour and its vulnerability in the past to Indigenous people from the north who began to come south in greater numbers attracted to the trading posts and the opportunity to take slaves. As a result SENĆOŦEN speaking people, such as XWCE’MATX who had a house at SYOWT and a reef net fishery on Pender Island, left in the early 1840’s to seek temporary refuge in the fortified amalgamated village of TSAUWTH on the Saanich peninsula (Suttles 1951,26, 277). Some, it seems, moved back. The first signatory to the Douglas Treaty North Saanich of 1852 was Holutstun, who “comes from Ganges harbour”. The fight Earl Claxton describes occurred on July 1, 1860 between a canoe of Bella Bella and local Hul’q’umi’num’-speaking people (Arnett 1999, 90-91). There was another aspect of the harbour to be cautious of —a sƛ̓əlequm called sínəɬqiʔ described as “a type of dragon or flying lizard or snake with great power that is rarely seen” (Montler 2018, 492; Richling 2016, 110). Encounters with this creature could be deadly or beneficial. In 1934, a Hul’q’umi’num’- speaking woman from Kwam’utsun, known to us only as “Johnson”, described to the anthropologist Diamond Jenness (1934/35,249 the sínəɬqiʔ of Shiya’hwt:

In Ganges harbour at the north end of Salt Spring Island is a snake with poisonous breath, sinalke [sínəɬqiʔ]. It contorts and paralyzes the arms and body of anyone who inhales its breath. It somewhat resembles a dogfish, and is sometimes seen in the water. If it opens its mouth and squirts blood towards you, you will become a powerful skaiyep.

A white man settled at this place on Ganges Hr. He lost all his children and finally his wife, through sinalke. Sinalke produces a sickness called stcelh [sχə́ɬ] ? Men get it from walking in water covered with a mat-like slime and not washing it off immediately afterwards. This slime is made from Sinalke.

Mrs. Johnson did not describe exactly where the sínəɬqiʔ was located but three things suggest that it was at the head of the harbour (where incidentally there is a striking linear rock formation that juts out into the bay at low tide). In summer the small creeks that run into the bay dry up and the lack of incoming water and circulation and configuration of the bay creates a situation where algae blooms create a greenish yellow slime across the surface recalling “the matt-like slime” produced by the sínəɬqiʔ in the story. The reference to a the sínəɬqiʔ contributing to the deaths of a settler’s family also suggests that the creature was located at the head of the harbour in proximity to the main area of mid 19th century non-native settlement. Thirdly, the name Shiya’hwt, “be cautious of it” is specific to the location of the town of Ganges directly adjacent to the head of the harbour.

Shiya’hwt is at one end of a sh-shuts’uw’ulh, or canoe skid from the head of Booth Canal to Ganges Harbour. The word connotes action of dragging a canoe over tse’lumun or freshly- peeled fir tree poles laid on the ground. Okano Creek at the head of Booth Canal gave access to low-level terrain with only one steep section at present day Atkins Road where a corduroy road of peeled fir poles was laid and the canoes dragged up the slight incline using ropes. Henry Edwards learned the story from his father Eddy Edwards:

When they can, when they’re in a hurry, they go to that bay across from Crofton, Booth Bay? They drag their canoe right over to Ganges. They had skids. That little creek goes right over to Ganges. It takes them about two hours and they’re going in that Shiya’hwt instead of going around [the island] about five or six hours. Rowing to that bunch or whatever it is [Walker’s Hook?] and they camp there and go around again rowing. But if they can go through in that canal there, they taking about two hours and they’re already in Shiya’hwt. They would just drag their canoe in that canal there and they taking about two hours and they’re already in Shiya’hwt. They would just drag their canoe in that creek. In the ‘30’s I could still see them skids in that little creek. I went so far up and I got scared of the white people and I turned back. There was nothing but white people all over quite close to that canal where the Indians used to drag their canoes.



There is some discrepancy regarding the actual location of Q’iq’uwutum “little drummer” but it is thought to be in the vicinity of the “wharf area” at Bold Bluff (Rozen,1985:135). According to Arvid Charlie’s information:

Q’i’q’uw’utum is “little drumming place”. One of the ones I heard, whether it relates to this one or not, I don't know, but there’s a little drummer fish and only certain people hear it.

Commenting on what an elder had told him about the experience, Arvid Charlie says;

He doesn’t know if it was something spiritual or if it was something underwater. So, who knows? But he was camped on a nice, quiet night and here was this… he didn’t know if it was people or if it was underwater. He didn’t know where it was coming from, q’iq’uwtum (little drumming).



Possibly related to the story of Sxeeluqun this Hul’q’umin’num name translates as “thunderbird cave” and refers to a cave at Bold Bluffs where “the sound of thunder could often be heard emanating” (Rozen,1985: 135). S-hwuhwuas (thunderbird) was a powerful entity. “Thunderbird Caves” are found elsewhere on Vancouver Island and then Gulf islands and are associated with secrecy as Arvid Charlie a explains:

There’s quite a few different places with that name. They are special places. That’s still kinda sensitive; “should we talk about it, or shouldn’t we?’ So, I can’t really talk about it until it is cleared with the elders.



Slhukw’lhukw’us is the name for a number of places with exposed rock bluffs on the south end of Salt Spring Island where certain individuals performed a special activity to capture the feathers or the body of a golden eagle. The name refers onomatopoeically to the flap of the eagles’ wings as it flies away. One of these places is near the top of Hwmet’etsum Mount Maxwell (Baynes Peak). Arvid Charlie explains the meaning of the placename:

Slhukw’lukw’us, Baynes Peak, Mount Maxwell, was where certain individuals lay there pretending they were dead and putting something, dead fish, deer guts, right across their tummy, or somewhere on their chest, and they make like they are dead, like their guts are running out or something, and an eagle, seeing this and watching for a long time, and the guy had to keep really still for who knows how long, four days, two days. And if he kept absolutely still that eagle will come in to just eat him up… If he kept absolutely still he’d be able to catch that eagle. If he moved, flinched in any way, that eagle would flap away. That’s why it’s called Slhukw’lhukw’us. Lhawk is “fly.” Lhukwus, “fly away place” something like that. So if you moved or you twitched, the eagle was gone. Lhawk’ away, flap away. That’s a short version. You either caught the bird, or you caught the feathers, and for some it was a bigger accomplishment to have the feathers from an eagle without killing it the eagle. Apparently some would keep the whole bird, but that’s still a big feat. How many people can catch an eagle with their bare hands? They wanted the golden eagle but definitely other birds would come in like the bald eagle, but the choice was the golden eagle.

(S)tsuw’een / S,CUAN


How the land is shaped.

In the Hul’q’umi’num’ and SENĆOŦEN languages, Ts’uween is a descriptive term for “land [mountain] goes right down to the water” and refers to the steep shoreline of Salt Spring Island and Mount Tuam at the entrance to Satellite Channel (Hudson 1970:15). According to Arvid Charlie:

Tsu’ween… some say it’s the whole south-facing side-hill of Mount Tuam. Some say its Cape Keppel, along the beach. Seems like the older versions mean the whole south-facing slope.

The SENĆOŦEN version of the word, ĆU,ÁÁN, also references the topography of Salt Spring island’s mountainous south end and refers to the Cape Keppel area including Tuam Mountain (Elliot, 1990:31). In SENĆOŦEN, Earl Claxton says, “ĆU,ÁÁN talks about ‘ends’ and if you look at the mountain from one direction there’s two, there’s a mountain on each end.” The placename was first recorded in 1852 by James Douglas who applied the name, which he wrote as “Chuan,” to include the entire island (Douglas 1852).

According to Saanich and Cowichan elders, “there was an incredible diversity of food getting activities in this area until the turn of the century” (Rozen.1985:136). In the spring herring spawn was collected and herring raked in various locations by Hul’q’umi’num’ while both Saanich and Hul’q’umi’num speaking people fished or hunted lingcod, halibut, clams, giant red sea urchins, seals and sea lions (Rozen, 1985:136). Elders had detailed knowledge of the steep rocky shoreline and passed on this knowledge to the young. Arvid Charlie recalls his grandfather pointing out a place “west of Cape Keppel” where two creeks and a short cliff indicated a fresh water spring.



According to some SENĆOŦEN and Hul’q’umi’num’-speaking people, the name Sxeeluqun refers to a place on top of the mountain (Rozen,1985). The mountain is important and famous as the setting for the story of Sxeeluqun, an ostracized youth given incredible powers by Sh-hwahwas (Thunderbird), only to misuse them and cause his own destruction (Harris 1901, 45-52; Maud 1978, 142-146; Richling 2016, 150-152; Rozen, 1985:136-137; Bouchard and Kennedy 2002, 144-145; Arnett, 2007, 315-318). His house of tule mats stood at the summit of Mount Tuam overlooking the Saanich Peninsula and the Cowichan Delta. Clam-shell and sand brought to the mountain by Sxeeluqun’s slaves were said to be still visible in the late 19th century (Maud 1978, 144).

Tswu’een (Mount Tuam) Sxeeluqun’s house stood at the summit.
Tswu’een (Mount Tuam) Sxeeluqun’s house stood at the summit.

Several lengthy versions of this story have been published. Arvid Charlie gives “a very short version”:

There was a whole bunch of brothers, Sxeeluqun being one of them. One of the brothers threw sts’iitsum [fir bark dust] in his face causing him to go blind. So whatever reason, they dropped him off up there (Tsu’ween). He was, from what I’m told, from Lhum’lhumuluts. Somebody [s-hwahwaus] worked on him to get his eyes back when he opened his eyes they flashed lightening. So he used that to threaten people. They had to bring him food and eventually it got to they had to bring him their daughters or their wives to appease him. So he’s accumulating a certain kind of wealth, including wives. So from what I’m told they had to kill him somehow. They found out that if you heated up a seal, the whole seal, the fat would gush out and they covered his face and chest with that so he couldn’t open his eyes and then they killed him.

According to Arvid Charlie the story has resonance today:

There are various descendants from that story that are with us today. There’s many names associated with that and they are being used. Some families don't want it to be known and I respect that. I can’t reveal those names.

A small pond near the peak was used as a bathing place by people aspiring to be shamans (Hudson 1970, 15).

Hwune’nuts / WENÁ,NEĆ


(Fig. 2) The name Hwu’ne’nuts/WENÁ,NEĆ in both, SENĆOŦEN and Hul’qumi’num’ describes broadly how the land is shaped. It refers to the harbour and is also the name of a village site on the north side of the Harbour near the entrance where a 50 acre federal reserve (IR 5) was established in 1876 today managed by TSAWOUT on the Saanich Peninsula. Last occupied in 1923, it is the only Indian Reserve on Salt Spring Island. Earl Claxton describes the placename to show how it relates figuratively to the surrounding landscape, especially the Saanich Peninsula something difficult for non-speakers to appreciate without the prior knowledge:

Well, WENÁ,NEC.́ The name really talks about it – it’s facing this way towards us. It’s facing Saanich. WENÁ,NEĆ. Means “come here” WEN and “the butt” NEĆ of it is facing towards here in Saanich.

Thus, the ‘rear end lowered ” (WENÁ,NEĆ) is facing the “rear end raised in the air”, (W̱SÁNEĆ) being the Saanich Peninsula and its sacred mountain LÁU,WELNEW (Mount Newton) in particular (Hudson 1970,1). SENĆOŦEN speaker Dave Elliot (1985) translated the word for Fulford Harbour as “Move your Butt over.” Hul’qumi’num’ elders suggested the translation “lowering rear end” (Rozen 1985, 243). The late Ray Sam believed that the name WENÁ’NEĆ indicated the former estuary at the mouth of Fulford Creek at the head of the harbour which, as Ray Sam explained, was “kind of, sort of placed back like…way, way back”.

WENÁ,NEĆ It's a real ancient name. There was no deer when they made that, when they made the deer over there, that was the place. XÁ,ELS is the Transformer. God, if you want to call him. Actually, it really works together with the environment, nature, I guess. Just respect for everything because it says there that the deer… we always like to relate that to when that deer was changed from a human because he was such a character. He was no good. So XAELS got him, took him, and changed him into a deer. So he starts jumping and he was going into the bush and XÁ,ELS said, “You better come back. I’m not finished with you yet.” SḾÍLEŦ [deer] had a bow and arrow in his pack and XÁ,ELS pulled out two of the arrows that he had and stuck them on his hind legs. That’s why his hind legs are stiff. The deer can’t bend their hind legs. They stuck the arrows in there on the back and they started going into the bush and XÁ,ELS says, ”But I’m not finished with you. I haven’t put your MESEN in there yet”. That’s why today deer haven’t got a MESEN, a gizzard. Also he told SḾÍLEŦ that the Saanich people will be hunting for him forever. We speak of the deer as our NUS, our grandchild. So if you’re going to hunt for the deer. You don't say, ”I’m going hunting deer”. You say, “our grandchild” because they used to be a human being. SḾÍLEŦ. I don't know why it is but I relate it to WENÁ,NEĆ. John Elliot feels the same way about it. Where the different deer was changed. Lots of deer in WENÁ,NEĆ at that reserve there. Lots of deer there. Everybody hunts there. I even thought of building a cabin there some day but I’m getting too old now. It’s a very nice spot. If you ask John Elliot he’ll tell you the same thing, that it seems like the first deer was created at WENÁ,NEĆ . All the islands have deer on it. Pender has deer, Saturna has deer, Mayne Island, Galiano, Salt Spring. That was the Saanich way of respecting the nature and the land that we live in. I always get the feeling that the first deer that came into being was over at WENÁ,NEĆ. John Elliot: Exactly. I would say that [WENÁ,NEĆ ] that was one of the Saanich’s oldest villages.

Frank Steven’s Hul’q’umi’ num’-speaking father describes the placement of bodies on “a small island” following a smallpox epidemic, probably of 1782, which had deadly effect on the local population “According to the stories handed down”, smallpox came on the south wind, and the people could not get “the clean north wind to blow the foul disease away.” The south wind blew all winter “until most of the tribe were dead and there were two few left to bury their bodies.’ The survivors took the corpses to an unspecified small island near Fulford Harbour “placing their remains in crevices in the rocks, covering them with flat stones.” The late Stan Harris who was born at Isabella Point in 1926 remembers visiting the reserve as a youth to raid the old apple orchard and to explore the ruins of houses of the last indigenous people to live on the reserve. Harris also recalled numerous skeletons on one of the rocky islets directly off the reserve:

There’s an Indian burial ground on those little islands there. That was “Skull Island”— we called it because there were skulls, bones, all over the place. Actually people didn't believe that there were skulls and bones on there. We’d have to show them before they’d believe you - that it was a burial ground.

The bones were eventually removed from the islets by Indigenous persons. In 1874 a surveyor, Ashdown Green visited WENÁ’NEĆ and noted “an old Indian Ranch, the carved posts of which are still standing.” In 1876-1877 when Federal Government employees visited WENÁ’NEĆ [they] identified a Saanich man named “’Lil kwi yun” who was living there with “seven other men and eight women” (Indian Reserve Commission, 1876-77). The present day Indian reserve No. 5 is today registered under the name of the Tsawout First Nation but the traditional tenure of the Hwu’ne’nuts/ WENÁ’NEĆ acknowledges both Hul’qumi’num and Saanich interests (Rozen,1985:243). Both groups accessed the area for herring in the spring and lingcod, halibut, salmon fishing, clamming, ducks seals and sea-lions during the summer months sharing “a seasonally occupied village of the Saanich and Cowichan at the south east entrance to Fulford harbour” (Rozen 1985, 243; Reimer 1976, 78).

By the early 20th century it seems that various people lived on the reserve over time. Charlie Joseph and his wife Mary lived at WENÁ’NEĆ in a small house east of the massive barn-like longhouse which stood above the beach on a level surface of shell midden (Fig.3). Cowichan sources name Teluxutstun and his wife Syupyapulwut (from Qw’umiyiqun’ and Malahat respectively) as occasional residents. Charlie Joseph was known by at least four “white names” including Indian Charley, Chief Charlie, Medicine Man Charley or Chief Charlie Zalt Zalt. According to Sannich oral histories, whoever lived there hosted “longhouse dancing”. Local Hul’q’umi’num-speaking women, such as Mary Gyves (Tuhawiya) who was married to a white settler would visit the reserve with her siblings to camp, dig, process and feast on clams. The Sidney Review March 13, 1923 reported “Indian Charley missing with wife Mary one week.” After they disappeared it was supposed that they were murdered although no sign of foul play was ever discovered and 300 dollars was found in their house (Hamilton 1960, 164). I asked Ernie Rice about their disappearance. I’m not sure if he understood the specific context of my question or interpreted it as a general remark:

Well, I’m going to change the story now. The Indians go to Yakima Washington and the hwunitum people they give them blankets, nice clothes. People so happy to get new blankets, new clothes and some of them don't live very long and they get sick and they ran away. They travel on a canoe. That's why there’s alooooooot of people… they found them all over the islands all over Salt Spring, Penelakut, all over Valdez. Look for a spot to stay there. They die there and nobody can go touch them because its contagious – measles – flu - that was very dangerous.

After the couple went missing, the longhouse was dismantled and the nearby cabin fell into ruin as reported in a Victoria newspaper in 1935 (Bonovan 1935):

Still visible there are the mouldering remains of the rough cabin of Medicine Man Charley and his wife Mary, both Cowichan Indians. Remnants of a fireplace, cleverly constructed out of sticks and clay still clings to the mouldering hut.

Until the last occupants passed away, Hwunenuts/WE’NA’NEĆ was the longest continually occupied Indigenous community on Salt Spring Island. No one has lived on the reserve since.

Hwu’ne’nuts in the late 20’s early 30’s, showing the ruins of Charlie Joseph’s gable roofed house with the longhouse in the foreground.. Salt Spring Island Archives.
Hwu’ne’nuts in the late 20’s early 30’s, showing the ruins of Charlie Joseph’s gable roofed house with the longhouse in the foreground. Salt Spring Island Archives.

(S)ts’usnu’um / ȾESNOEN


(S)ts’usnu’um/ ȾESNOEN (“being hit by the tide”) is the name given to the low elevation rocky peninsula which makes up the south east corner of Salt Spring Island. The name refers specifically to both the geographical feature Beaver Point and generally to the entire southeast peninsula of Salt Spring Island. According to SENĆOŦEN-speaker Earl Claxton:

ȾESNOEN [Sts’usnu’um] is in the Cowichan language, “being hit by the tide”, the tide hits right on that point being hit by the current. It’s not really spoken of. Usually the places that we’re not supposed to be going near or whatever, it was never really spoken of. You know, a lot of people in Parks Canada ask, “What did they say about and if it was taboo to us? We sort of veer away from it. We don’t talk about it.

Possible burial cairns have been identified at Ts’usnu’um and nearby places and place names (not all recorded here) suggest connections with bones and other taboo subjects in the area (Montler 2018, 987; Cowichan Tribes 2007, 140).

Rozen’s Hul’q’umi’num and SENĆOŦEN speaking teachers said Ts’usnu’um “was probably used as a camping site by the Cowichan on their way to the mainland in the summer” (1985, 243). According to information passed to Arvid Charlie:

The reason we went there was because of the good water that used to be there, probably still is there, spring water. And one of the things that we were waiting for was that kw’utth’un’ulhtsu’ which are six-gilled shark. I’m guessing it was around March, or early Spring. We’d wait there. Wouldn't be long before it came up. Eventually they came to the surface, just kinda float there and then somebody’s watching for it and you go and harpoon it. Why did we catch it? We used the fat, rendered the fat, but also the skin was used for sand paper.

(S)ts’usnu’um is remembered in Arvid Charlie’s family in association with a female relative who drowned there years ago one spring while collecting lhuq’us, edible seaweed.

(S)ts’usnu’um resonates in the memory of many elders as the longtime farming residence of Johnny Pappenberger (Siinus-uts-tun died 1967) and Mary Anne Pielle (Q’ut’q’iit died 1959). They lived on land pre-empted by Johnny’s German father, George Pappenberger, who was married by 1862 to an Indigenous Hul’qumi’num’ woman, Mary, from “Cowichan.” Their son was given an old Salt Spring Island name Siinus-uts-tun. He married Q’ut’q’iit, a granddaughter of a famous Penelekut leader Xulqulustun. Q’ut’q’iit was an excellent canoeist and could propel a large dugout canoe long distances by herself (Ron Papennburger p.c.). People were not allowed to sit in her presence until she sat. Ernie Rice relates:

Yeah Siinus-uts-tun from Salt Spring Island. He’s the original owner, this Siinus-uts-tun. He had white blood on him but he spoke good native language He lived at Beaver Point Ts’usnam. Just outside of Fulford at Beaver Point. You know where Beaver Point is on the other side? That's where they lived. When I first went there —there was a big farm there with apple trees, orchards

I don't know how many acres he had. He had horses, cows, sheep. He had lots of apple orchard. And he used to pick apples and he used to go to Valdez Island and he used to look for herrings and things like that. They trade them for apple and herrings. He used to dry his herrings. He had lots. Siinus-uts-tun he was the only one who can cook those fish really dry. Fishermans used to get hundreds and hundreds of them. Buy it off him. Japanese and Chinese…I dug clams and we stayed in Fulford harbor and they had nice water and this hwunitum, a man came over, he questioned me and I start telling him about my Grand aunt, my Grandpa Siinus-uts-tun, Thomas Pappenburger and all them guys.

Irene Griffiths (Personal communication 2003) suggested that the late 19th century marriage between Siinus-uts-tun and Q’ut’q’iit was in recognition of her family’s rights to this area of Salt Spring Island.

Tamul/Ta’mul/Ta’tumal / TOMMEL


Tatmul is a descriptive word meaning “lukewarm” and refers to the waters directly below Mount Erskine at the entrance to Booth Bay and, for some, Booth Bay itself (Rozen 1985; Elliot 1990)). In summer the water temperature can be as much as 70 degrees. It is also a general geographical reference for the area including Mount Erskine (Florence James, personal communication, 2011). Arvid Charlie suggests that the different pronunciations suggest different aspects:

There’s Ta’mul and there’s Tamul, the exact location I couldn't pinpoint. Tamul could be the water, and this Ta’mul could be the place. The only difference is that one has the ‘unuhw’ (glottal stop) and the other doesn't.

Ta’tamul “slightly cooler than lukewarm’ is another, diminutive version of the placename, with slightly different meaning, to describe the area of Sansum narrows just south of Booth Bay.



What happened to the land form.

As a striking landform visible from many directions, Mount Maxwell is an iconic feature of contemporary Salt Spring Island as it has been for millennia. The Hul’q’umi’num’ name for Mount Maxwell, Hwmet’utsun, translates as “bent over place” and refers to the role of the mountain in an Hul’q’umi’num’ Origin story. Arvid Charlie observes that the slight variations in suffix indicate different ways of describing the place, one in the present and one in the past:

Some say Hwumet’utsum, some say Hwumet’utsun, the difference being an “m” or “n” at the end. “Bent over,” there’s very slight difference. The “m” would mean doing action or “what’s being done” by the mountain in this case, to bend over. The “n” would mean “its been done”, the action’s been done.

In the story a young man seeks help for his people from the cannibal monster Sheshuqum, (“wide open mouth”) who lived opposite Salt Spring Island on Vancouver Island at Octopus Point. The young man swam across Sansum narrows, climbed the mountain and then canoed alone across to Point Roberts to seek help from Smaqwuts, the powerful man who lived there. The mountain bends over to allow Smaqwuts to hurl a giant slingstone to disable the cannibal monster ( Rozen 1985, 132-133; Turner 1992, 99-104). Xeels appears and turns the monster to stone. The mountain remains a monument to the story and a reminder of the destructive side of physical reality and the spiritual power of self-sacrifice.

Hwmet’utsun, overlooking Fulford Harbour
Hwmet’utsun, overlooking Fulford Harbour

Hwmet’utsun is an important landscape for spiritual training particularly on the southern side where a talus slope of enormous boulders with associated rock shelters and passages extends from the base of the summit down the forested slopes to Burgoyne Bay. The late Bob Akerman (2005,23). described the training of his grandmother, T’uxawiye’ on the south-facing slopes of Hwmet’utsun above Burgoyne Bay:

As instructed, she bathed in Burgoyne Bay and walked up to the caves on Mount Maxwell where she waited. After four days alone in a cave without any food, she became very weak and hungry. That night she dreamed of her friend the big black wolf. He showed her a song and dance that she never forgot.

SȾOM,E,ḰWAS / Ts’amuqw’us


A placename for Russell Island, at the entrance to Fulford Harbour, appears to be derived from the word for “skull” (stth’ma’qw in Hul’q’umi’num’) or third generation removed great grandparent or great grandchild (sts’a’muqw) (Quw’utsun Syuw’enst Lelum,2007:90). The association of the word skull and great grandparent refers to the facial features of a very old person with the skin tightly drawn over the bone structure (Andy Crocker,p.c.). Saanich elders recognize the association of the place with bones. According to Earl Claxton,

SȾOM,E,Ḱ is the name of that island. That’s where NEN lived [a great aunt], EḰ is “your body changed” to a “bone remains of a body” something like that. Probably it’s a burial ground. The name has something to do with bones, that Russel” Island,”

Arvid Charlie, however, says that both Hul’q’umi’num’ names means “timber giant” or “sasquatch.” A recent dictionary of the Saanich language gives SXEXEĆO,TEN as the name for Russell Island (Montler 2018:1008) yet earlier sources state that it is the name for Brackman Island (Elliot 1981:30). As such it is an unconfirmed placename with connotations of something sacred and restricted.

“Skull Island” was an old local name for one of the rock islets (Jackson Rocks) located off the Reserve in Fulford Harbour in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Both Russell Island and Jackson Rock may bear legacy of the horrific smallpox epidemic on Salt Spring Island in 1782 during which as, Nick Stevens was told, “according to the stories handed down”, smallpox came on the south wind, and the people could not get “ the clean north wind to blow the foul disease away.” The south wind blew all winter “until most of the tribe were dead and there were two few left to bury their bodies.” The survivors took the corpses to a small island near Fulford Harbour “placing their remains in crevices in the rocks, covering them with flat stones.” Stevens and his brother found a skull. Grandfather said: ”Take it back where you found it”, he roared. “It will bring us bad luck.” (Cited in Harris 1997:9-10). Hul’quni’num elder, Henry Edwards, who dug clams for many years in Fulford harbour, described Russell Island as “the Saanich part.”

Qw’atth’a’qw / KOTEK


The Hul’q’umi’num’ name for Musgrave Rock is Qw’atth’a’qw’/ KOTEK, (“excrement on head”) a descriptive word referring to the layer of bird excrement on its surface (Rozen,1985:135). There used to be lots of birds, seagulls and ducks. There used to be just hundreds maybe thousands, so the rock was literally white with their excrement and that’s why they call it Qw’atth’a’qw. The presence of large numbers of seagulls and other birds and the proximity to significant food gathering areas suggest that it was an important seagull egg gathering place during spring.



What appears to be a former island is attached to Salt spring island by a bridge of anthropogenic deposits fronted by a sandy beach. This geographic “hook” created a shallow harbour fed by fresh water creeks and is rich in intertidal zone resources. The resemblance of the topography to a fishing hook is recalled in an origin story where the thunderbird uses a hook to catch a whale that was dropped on the other side of the island at Parminter Point (Florence James, p.c.).

According to August Sylvester, Suy’q’mun’, the Hul’q’umi’num’ name for the Walker’s Hook area, has the meaning “burnt wood” probably in reference to its use as a camping spot during seasonal rounds. The configuration, size and location suggest that the tombolo may have been a winter village during part of its occupation. The negative evidence of traditions is a legacy of the smallpox of 1782.

“Walker’s Hook is our campground,” says Puneluxutth’ elder August Sylvester, “Mid-summer we’d come here and wait for the tides.” Each family had its preferred location along the beach. The beach and the bay at Walker’s Hook was a frequent stopping point for Indigenous workers on seasonal migrations and local expeditions:

As Augie explains:

When our people used to go to Salt Spring they’d camp there [Walker’s Hook] and they’d hunt by the bluff there. There used to be lots of deer there. Still lots of deer but mostly white people building on that hill now. We’d land at Walker’s Hook, we’d go up and get medicine there, make tea. Go up and look for the leaves, wild blackberries, willow, red willow, white willow. There’s three different willows we got. One of them is for tea. Can’t remember the name. When I see it I know it.

The reddish one’s the willow. It's just a painkiller that one. The red one. Use the bark and scrape the sap off it, like this, that’s a painkiller for our people. My grandfather says, “You go get that for me and scrape it.” “What you going to do with that?” “Oh. Grandmas’ got arthritis, she needs a painkiller.”

We used to come and park the boat just off the point here [refers to the west end of the “hook”]. We’d walk along all we want and hunt all we want. All the deer used to be here, in this area [points to the wooded hook]. Lots of time we’d leave and then the deer would be trapped there and we’d come back on a high tide and we used to walk back and forth on the island and the deer would be trapped out here. “Make sure its high tide, otherwise,” my grandfather [Basil Charlie] said, “they’ll get away. And right of this point, there’s some reefs, there’s kelps there, that’s a good cod bed. That’s where we fish cod.

Henry Edwards from Lamalchi bay on Penelakut island also visited Walker’s Hook with his family.

Oral tradition states that the first settlers of the Salt Spring settlement landed at Walkers Hook named for one of the settlers before drawing lots for their claims. Lot 20, the site of the village was not occupied initially but, eventually, by Howard Estes who passed on the land to its current owners in 1886. Indigenous people recall good and not so good relationships, in the 30’s and 40’s, with the descendants of black settlers and their wives at Suy’q’mun’. One man, (Whims?) may have lived with an Indigenous woman. Plums, alcohol and “rent money” are sometimes mentioned in different accounts.

In 2003 the tumbolo was leased to a commercial fish hatchery which began to develop the land with wells and trenches with archaeological monitoring (Wilson et al, 2004). During this work a long narrow excavation for a pipeline uncovered 14 human burials. All had been buried within the past 1000 years. Some of the bodies were reburied by Puneluxutth’ elders who, after working initially with the project, sought to prevent further disturbance. The burials and deep archaeological deposits indicate the cultural significance of the place. The current owners, the Caldwell family, continue to maintain the seaward site from erosion.



The name for Booth Bay is similar but different to Stulan (Vesuvius). The meaning is uncertain but Florence James suggested a meaning consonant with “canoes coming ashore.” (Florence James, p.c) Perhaps the word is onamoetopic? Perhaps, and this is only conjecture, the name Stl’e’lan is derived from tselu’um, the debarked fir poles used to skid canoes across to Shiyawt (Ganges Harbour). As already noted Hwtselu’um is a place name recorded for the entrance to Booth Canal.



The origin of the name Stulan is uncertain but it is well-recognized as the Hul’q’umi’num’ name for Vesuvius Bay. The area has archaeological evidence of occupation, human burials, rock paintings and is said to be the site of fish traps. Dock Bay and Duck Creek, north of Vesuvius Bay, was used to access inland areas such as St. Mary’s Lake where, in the late summer, “Cowichan people” would harvest tules to weave mats (Lucy Stewart and Ivan Mouat, personal communication 2004). No placenames have been recorded on the west side of Salt Spring Island from Stulan to the north end of the island despite the archaeological evidence and historic use of the area by Indigenous people from Hwlumelhtsu (Lamalcha) on Penelakut Island and others. The lack of place names on the west shoreline between Vesuvius Bay and Southey Point may be a legacy of the 1863 colonial war that resulted in the destruction of the Hwlumelhtsu village and the dispersal of the families who traditionally used this area (Arnett 1999).



This SENCOTEN placename refers to a well-known story (the Stone Heads) not usually associated with this particular area (Elliot, 1990, 30,31)

Chris Arnett