me-si’-ka Illahie

Today (2 Aug 21) on CBC’s the Early Edition, a panel discussed renaming British Columbia.

Me-si’-ka Illahie (Our land) or Illahie Chuck (Land and Water)


An excerpt from the parks 100th book, John Dean 21:


Today at Ƚ/JDP, the Chinook name Illahie is prominently featured at John Dean’s Cabin Site.

April 22, 1884 was the day John Dean (age 33) first arrived in Victoria. Much of Victoria’s population was still devoted to the British Empire at this time. Only 41 years earlier (1843) Fort Victoria was founded; 35 years earlier (1849) the Colony of Vancouver Island was created; 26 years earlier (1858) the two Crown Colonies were joined together; and 13 years earlier (1871) the Crown Colony of British Columbia joined Canada. Victoria was a growing city which had many economic and cultural opportunities.

John Dean, a Victoria pioneer would have been keenly aware of Chinook, a widely-used Indigenous trading language. This unique language originated along the Columbia River during the early 1810s, as easily-spoken words of Indigenous languages were mixed with English fishing words and French farming words to create this grassroots trading jargon. It soon evolved into a distinct Pacific Northwest language, and over the decades more than a quarter of a million people spoke this language as part of their everyday life. Had Chinook survived, it may have evolved into a permanent regional language which might have helped achieve the modern-day concept of reconciliation through sharing beliefs, traditions and philosophies. Chinook could have laid the course for an Indigenous syncretic culture. I believe if the Pacific Northwest had become its own country, a cross-cultural identity and lifestyle would have emerged and prospered.

On July 23, 1910, John Dean (age 59), who was still connected with the pioneer era of Victoria and the synergy of Chinook, named his secluded mountain top cabin Illahie, which means country, land, earth and soil in Chinook. He selected this name to identify the property as a Country Home. Clearly John Dean chose to use and respect the Indigenous trading language Chinook, which would have meaning to all Indigenous traders of the time. Today, the only remains of this language are honoured in unique place names and memorials.

John Dean honoured the name Illahie by carving a sign and installing it next to the door of his first cabin. In 1918, when the surrounding fence and entrance gates were erected, Dean installed carved signs above the three entrance gates. The name became more prominent in 1921 when John Dean donated 80 of his 100 acres for a park, and the new survey maps identified his remaining 20-acre property as Illahie.

After John Dean sold the 20-acre property to the syndicate of friends in July 1939 (age 88), the surrounding fence and signs were removed, and the name nearly disappeared. However the name did survive through survey maps, within Dean’s diaries, and five known photographs of the south side entrance gate.

For the parks 75th anniversary in 1996, the narrow ivy-laden path which provided a loop around John Dean’s cabin was named Illahie Loop Trail. Today after much stewardship, the entire area is ivy-free, and the cabin site name reminds us of earlier times.

ILLAHIE, Pronunciation and definition – YouTube


Renaming BC Panel | The Early Edition with Stephen Quinn | Live Radio | CBC Listen



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