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Creek name change investigated in Terrace, B.C. area

SOCKEYE CREEK sign on the Old Lakelse Lake Road could change to Eliza Creek to better reflect local history. - STAFF PHOTO
SOCKEYE CREEK sign on the Old Lakelse Lake Road could change to Eliza Creek to better reflect local history.
— image credit: STAFF PHOTO

KITSELAS Elder Francis Seymour says he supports the move to change the name Sockeye Creek to Eliza Creek, but wonders if there might be a traditional name to go along with it.

“If we could find another name maybe we could combine them,” Seymour said. He plans to continue talking to other elders to see what they think.

Eliza Thornhill was sister to the famous Kitselas chief Walter Wright and was married to Englishman Tom Thornhill in 1892. According to locals Sockeye Creek was originally called Eliza Creek until a surveyor wrongfully mislabeled it.

In the past officials from both the regional district and city of Terrace have mentioned wanting to have it changed.

Ken Newman, a planner for the regional district of Kitimat Stikine, said that changing the name Sockeye Creek to Eliza Creek would require consultation with Kitselas First Nation because the creek is on their traditional land.

According to the B.C. government’s geographical naming policy any name change should be approved by First Nations if the feature falls “entirely within First Nation Treaty Settlement Land.”

Seymour is the latest member of the Terrace community to speak out in support of the recent move by city council member Lynne Christsiansen and former Kitimat-Stikine regional district director Les Watmough  to instigate a name change.

Seymour says he is asking around trying to find the original Kitselas name for Sockeye Creek, and to determine if Eiza had another traditional last name that could be combined. According Seymour, it appears that Sockeye Creek resides in Kitselas territory that is designated to the wolf clan which he is part of. He is currently in discussion with other distant relatives of Eliza Wright.

Eliza’s brother, Walter Wright, was a Tsimshian hereditary chief who is well known these days for his oral history Men of Medeek.

Walter had seven sisters including Eliza, Seymour said, and hence many nieces and grand nieces, one of whom Seymour is also related as well.

Eliza was a trapper, and walked from her cabin she shared with Tom several miles to the creek area to check the line. From her association with the creek locals starting referring to it as Eliza Creek.

According to Ken Newman it appears that it was first labelled as Sockeye Creek in 1916, and officially adopted in 1930, although Eliza Creek was still used in the early 1940s, which dates the change earlier than Watmough first thought.

 

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