In a article in the Times Colonist, columnist Jack Knox asked readers to submit alternative names for British Columbia.
The top winners? Dozens went with Cascadia (and the many variations) followed by Pacifica, and more than beating out over a 170 other submissions. In the course of a few days, hundreds of votes rolled in. Some were racist, some were humorous, some were anatomically not possible – and despite that no one is seriously suggesting the name of British Columbia be changed – it was a fun thought experiment that helped create a space for BC’ers to express some of their views.
The thought experiment crops up every few years, and was first advanced by Ben Pires of Victoria, who claimed that British Columbia is neither historically accurate, nor inclusive – and thinking from a grounded and rooted perspective – was the primary point.
Many residents obviously had fun with the idea:
“J.C. Scott proposed Cascadian as a specifically Canadian option. Garry Pigeon liked Nouveau Cascadia. Sadie Quintal pitched North Cascadia, as did Andrew Reding, who added that Washington state (which gets confused with D.C.) could become South Cascadia. Composer William Brookfield proposes Grand Cascadia and has written and recorded an anthem of that name.”
There was also some sentiment to move away from the ‘British’ part of the name and steer more towards Columbia or “Pacific Columbia” which in of itself was a bit of a stab at the British – derived from Christopher Columbus, which became popular at the time of the American Revolution as the poetic representation of a new western nation independent of Britain or it’s Eastern Coast counterparts.
Many people also felt that indigenous inclusion was critical –
“the idea of giving the province an Indigenous name was popular. Salish, Salish Territory and Moksgm’ol (the Tsimshian name for the spirit bear) were all suggested. The challenge is that B.C. has dozens of distinct Aboriginal languages. Choosing one would mean snubbing the others… several people suggested solving that problem by mining Chinook, the old trading jargon that blended native languages, English and French so that all could speak to one another.” Surrey’s Harpinder Sandhu argued that multicultural synthesis makes Chinook an appropriate source for a new name:
“It truly reflects our integration of native and settler experience up until today.” So, Sandhu asked, how about a new name incorporating Tillicum (meaning people, or family), Nesika (we, us, ours), Skookum (great, strong) or Illahee (land)? John Ricker had a similar suggestion with a slightly different spelling: Pacific Illahie. Vickie Jackson put forth Chinook Illahie.
Nanaimo’s Paul Walton went Lord of the Rings-ish with his Chinook suggestion, Wakesiah, meaning “a long way off” or “mysterious, sinister or forbidding.” That has an appropriately Mordor-like feel to it, he said, adding: “As for our Sauron, take your pick from any number of past premiers.”