Push underway to change name of Terrace area creek

Sockeye Creek wrong for several reasons, say local residents

THE name Sockeye Creek doesn’t sit right for local residents who have a passion for local history.

Terrace city councillor Lynne Christiansen believes the name should be changed back to its original name of Eliza Creek in acknowledgement of an important figure in local history–a female icon central to both aboriginal and settler culture.

Eliza was a sister to Kitselas chief Walter Wright and after marrying Tom Thornhill from England, the couple settled down to live in a cabin near the Kitselas Canyon on the Skeena River in 1892.

Eliza was also a trapper and would routinely hike to her trapline located near a creek that eventually bore her name.

But the name was changed to Sockeye Creek sometime in the 1930s.

Both Christiansen and former Thornhill Kitimat-Stikine regional district director Les Watmough have tried unsuccessfully at different times to get the name restored.

“We’ve brought it up before but the staff runs into roadblocks and it fades away,” Christiansen said.

Christiansen brought up the issue once more at the February Kitimat-Stikine regional district meeting where she sits as a City of Terrace director and last week at a city council meeting.

Sockeye Creek is wrong for several reasons, said Watmough, explaining that a group of summer surveyors from federal fisheries who came through the area sometime in the 1930s were responsible.

The problem began when the surveyors changed the name of a larger creek known to the locals as Sockeye Creek located south of Terrace.

“Their leader was a bureaucrat. Williams was his name. They disregarded the local map and changed Sockeye to Williams,” Watmough said of the surveyors.

Having placed the name of the group leader on their own map, Watmough said they now had to find a new creek on which to stick the name sockeye. They found another nearby, the one locals called Eliza.

Apparently aware of what he had done, Watmough said, Williams pencilled in the note “officially Eliza Creek” on his survey map.

What further riles Watmough is the fact that Sockeye Creek is home to more coho salmon than it is to sockeye.

“To this day it’s not a sockeye creek. It’s a coho creek. It runs black with them in the fall.”

The last mention of Eliza Creek in local archives is an Omineca Herald newspaper article dating June 1935. It was around that time, says Watmough, that federal fisheries came through on their survey mission.

About 20 years ago Watmough submitted a name-change form to the provincial government, however the effort was rejected because Eliza Creek was already in use.

The geographic naming policies and procedures form from the provincial ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations states that geographical names represent “a certain aspect of the history and promise of an area that might otherwise be overlooked or forgotten by visitors and later generations.”

Chris Gudgeon from the ministry said there is nothing stopping local residents from applying again.

They just have to demonstrate adequate community support, he said.