Correct Definition Of The Word Nanaimo

(Taken From The Nanaimo Free Press, March 4, 1907)

Correct Definition Of The Word Nanaimo

Master Gordon Planta Gets First Prize in Earl Grey Competition For The Best Answer To How Nanaimo Came By Its Name --Miss Belle McMillan Obtains Special Mention

How did Nanaimo come to be called Nanaimo?

That was the question last fall that was agitating many school children when the Governor-General, on his vivist here offered a medal for the boy or girl giving him the best answer to this question, naming the following committee as judges, Mayor Planta, Mark Bate and A. R. Johnston.

Quite a number of ingenious replies were received, and the task the judges had before them was not an easy one, a long delay in making the final award being caused by having to look up information and gather data on the subject, so that the most correct answer would get the prize.

Mayor Planta resigned from the committee, finding out that a son of his was in the competition, his place being taken by a member of the Free Press staff. Mr. Quennell was given the replies, numbered them, cut off the names of the writers, and handed the compositions to the judges.

The award has been given to Gordon Planta, son of Mayor Planta, as being the most authentic answer. From information in the judges' posession Master Planta's answer is correct in every detail.

Another compositon, and one that was very well written and which will be forward to Earl Grey with special recommendation, was that by Belle McMillan. It is an Indian legend and very cleverly written. From a sentimental standpoint Miss McMillan's reply is the better, but judged with historical data as a standard, Master Planta's is more correct.

The two replies will be type-written and if the writers will call at this office tomorrow and sign them they will be forwarded to Earl Grey tomorrow.

The following reply obtains the award:

The name "Nanaimo" is a contraction of the Indian word "Snanaimo" which means "Great People". The sibilant sound was dropped by the early settlers; and the Indians, through their commercial dealings with them, finally acquired the same pronunciation.

These Indians were formerly five tribes, one of which lived at "Sclalup", now called "Departure Bay" another at "Sweelum", now known as "Nanaimo River", and the other two tribes, both small tribes lived within a radius of four or five miles from Wenthuysen Inlet, where the fifth, the largest and principal tribe lived. These tribes each had a separate name but all speaking the same dialect. They finally united at Wenthuysen Inlet, now the city of Nanaimo, thus forming the "Great People" - hence the name.

This information was received from Chief Louis Good of the Nanaimo Indians, who confirmed the statement.

Many years ago, before the advent of the white man in this country, the forefathers of the present tribe of Indians known as the Nanaimo Indians, lived at Departure Bay with a branch of the same tribe at Nanoose Bay, and another branch at Cowichan Bay, south of Nanaimo. One day, when the Indians at Nanoose were keeping watch for the Hidas Indians from Queen Charlotte Islands, who made their periodical raids on the East Coast Indians and carried off many for slaves, as the Hidas were a very powerful tribe, the war cry was heard and the signal given to the Nanoose Indians that the Hidas were coming. The Nanoose Indians lanched their boats or canoes, filled them with every available member of the family, and started off for Departure Bay to join the rest of the tribe. When they arrived there, the other branch from Cowichan Bay was there by order of the Indian war goddess. There was great rejoicing as there was a great number when the three branches of the tribe were united or brough together.

The war drums were sounded and all the chiefs, great and small, drew up their warriors in battle and made ready for the attack. The head chief, with great ceremony called on their goddess of war to give them victory, telling all the tribe if victory came to them, he would offer a human sacrifice of his daughter on the ground where the victory was gained, and build on that spot an Indian camp in honor and commemoration of his daughter and of the victory.

The Hidas, on coming and seeing them lined up for battle at the entrance to Departure Bay, drew off, when to the east of Newcastle and Protection Islands. Being in need of water, fresh water, they headed for the river, now called Nanaimo River, and forced battle near where No. 1 mine is today. The battle lasted several days. The Hidas held their ground at the commencement of the battle as they were great fighters, being large and fierce warriors. Victory fell to the Nanaimo tribe, of that name today. The Hidas made good their retreat, leaving many dead behind them.

After the battle there was great feasting which lasted several days. At this feast the head chief's daughter was offered as a sacrifice to the goddess of war for bringing them victory. This daughter's name was "Na-na-mah" expressed in a low, bleating voice. This name was given her by her mother directly after Na-na-mah was born, as being the first peculiar sound she heard after her daughter's birth. This was and is the custom of some tribes of today, giving names to their children of the thing they heard or saw.

This word "Na-na-mah", when pronounced in a low squeaky voice, is like the call of a young deer to its mother. This was the sound Na-na-mah's mother heard after her daughter's birth which she gave to her.

After the feast the crest of the father chief was carved on the sandstone at Chase River mine, or just above it, which can be seen to this day, but somewhat disfigured since then.

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