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Historical Vignettes of the North

Dateline: February 11, 2006.

This article originally appeared in The Klondike Nugget in 1899

Old Landmarks Removed

Names Associated With the Yukon Materially Altered

Geographic Society Announces a Code of Rules
and Establishes an Official Style of Orthography.

      Colonel Steele of the N.W.M.P., was lately in receipt of a copy of the first annual report of the Geographic Board of Canada. The courtesy was due, likely, to the fact that the Colonel was able to assist the board materially in the labors which they report, and which consist principally in a revision of the geographical nomenclature of the Dominion. A study of the report discloses an apparent thoroughness of effort that is a strong testimonial to the character of the board. The body was constituted in December of 1897 by act of parliament, which further provides for their actions becoming effective upon the several departments of the government without approval.

      In the report at hand, the board publishes a code of rules which shall govern the spelling of geographical names. They recommend that the possessive form be avoided, also the use of hyphens, especially in Indian names; the use of the word "city" as a part of a name should be avoided, "canyon" should be used instead of "canon," brook instead of creek, etc.

      The report contains an extensive list of names passed upon by the board and describing the manner in which they shall be spelled and used officially. A majority of them belong to the Yukon territory, and it is observed that not a few very important changes are made, both as to form and spelling.

      For instance, Lake Leberge is changed to Lake Laberge, and possibly for a very good reason.

      Deep Lake, of the upper trail, has been changed to Canyon lake, probably because its surroundings are canyon-like and the lake is not as deep as it might be.

      Long Lake, another body of water indelibly impressed upon the memories of the thousands who mushed their weary way over it in the early days, has been named Mountain lake, and that may sound prettier than the old name, even though it caries no old and dear associations.

      Arkell lake, also, has been wiped off the map - that is, so far as regards its name - and hereafter will be known as Kusawa lake.

      In regard to the river, the Hootalinqua, than which there are few prettier, it is changed by the board to Teslin.

      One of its neighbors popularly termed the Lewis river has been officially designated the Lewes. This is historically correct, but it will be hard to effect a general adoption of the style.

      One sensible change is in the name of Illes-too, a brook, which will hereafter be known as Ille's brook

      Popular custom has been to speak of the Stewart's principal tributary as the McQuestion; the name of the popular gentleman in whose honor it was named, however, is spelled McQuesten, and the public, by whom "Jack" is liked, will not be slow to do him the justice of adopting the proper mode of spelling his name.

      The "Stickeen," to, undergoes a change and adopts the prettier form of Stikene.

      Too-tlas river is changed to Thomas river; and properly enough, too, for even if it has an historic significance, the people do not know it.

      The most important change in regard to place comes right home, for Klondike City is shorn of its pendant and becomes plain Klondike. Owing to the fact that the place bears the same name of the district it is in, we believe the rule of the board applying thereto should have been ignored in this instance, and the word "city" allowed to remain. However, they are "doing it."

      Selkirk is a pretty name, but it may apply to Alexander Selkirk, the "Robinson Crusoe" of boyhood days, or many other things. But there never was but one Fort Selkirk, and everybody knows where and what it is when they see the name; hence, the board saw fit to disagree with the late custom of designating the capital of the Yukon as Selkirk, and order that it be called Fort Selkirk, as of old. Bravo!

      Dawson City proved none too great to escape the pruning knife of the board, and now it is plain Dawson. But we don't mind it a bit, that's what we've been calling ourselves for a long time.

      In the name of Skagway, the letter "w" is adopted in place of the "u" oftentimes employed, which is well.

      Other names which are made up of more than one word are merged together; for instance, Fortymile, Goldbottom, Nogold, Whitehorse rapids, Dognose.

      Grizzly Bear bluff, is shortened to Grizzly bluff, which is commendable.

      Plain Klondike takes the place of Klondyke, Clondyke and Throndiuck, and a long-suffering public will thank the board heartily for it. "Throndiuck" is a living nightmare.

      A chain of mountains north of the Klondike is named Ogilvie mountains, while one of its highest peaks is called Harper mound. Many other places and objects are given names, making the report one of especial and deep importance to the territory.

      Nugget readers who like to be informed and spell correctly will do well to cut this out and paste it up in a convenient place for easy reference.


  • Lake Laberge was named for Mike Laberge, a member of the Collins Overland Telegraph surveying party;
  • the Lewes River was the section of the Yukon River from Marsh Lake to Lake Laberge;
  • the spelling of "Stickeen" was actually changed to "Stikine";
  • it is not clear why the Board was concerned with the spelling of "Skagway," but it is possible that they were hoping for the Boundary dispute, which was ongoing at that time, to go in Canada's favour, putting Skagway within their jurisdiction.

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