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Kalamalka name re-visited

On last week’s blog the mention of the possible origin of the name Kalamalka was interesting but it left the impression that there is agreement on the derivation of the name. Carmen Weld suggests that Kalamalka may be a form of the name Kenamaska, the name of the chief who lived at the northern end of the lake. Others have suggested that the name derives from a Hawaiian term and that is also possible because Hawaiians were present in the interior of BC in the fur trade era and could easily have married into the Indian population. For example, between 1846 and 1848 a Hawaiian labourer named Kalemaka worked as a labourer for the HBC in New Caledonia before transferring to Fort Langley.

Local residents adopted the name Kalamalka long before it was officially gazetted in 1953. As early as 1892 the luxurious Kalamalka Hotel was constructed in Vernon. In 1912 the Vernon News reported a movement to change the name from Long Lake to Kalamalka Lake. In 1913 the Kalamalka Agricultural Association was formed in Oyama and the next year the Kalamalka Women’s Institute was founded. The name had considerable currency at the turn of the century.

Katrine Bercier ObituaryWas there a Chief Kalamalka? Census data and an obituary in the Vernon News shed some light on this question. The obituary of Mrs. Louis Bercier1 (née Katrine Quo-hast-a mayna or Go-est-a-mana) appearing in the Vernon News2 on 25 February 1926 is a good place to begin. It announced the death of “Coldstream Kate” who in her youth was reportedly “the best known woman in the Okanagan Valley, if not the province, … famous for her beauty and kindly disposition.” Her father, Chief Quo-hast-a-mayna, “stood six feet four and, like his father before him, was regarded as the highest type of North American Indian, physically fit and with mental powers away beyond the average.” The obituary goes on to claim that Quo-hast-a-mayna and his father, Chief Kalamalka, “owned” an immense tract of land beginning where Polson Park is, eastward to Lavington, and south almost to Oyama.

From this description we know that Chief Kalamalka was the grandfather of Coldstream Kate. From census data we know that Katrine was born about 1847, and Quo-hast-a-mayna about 1822. If twenty-five years also separated Quo-hast-a-mayna and his father, Chief Kalamalka, the latter was born just before 1800. He would have been about 68 years of age when the first settlers arrived in Priest’s Valley (Vernon). Many of the early settlers likely knew him personally, although no references to him have been found.

More information about this family is available in the available nominal censuses. As a widow, Katrine was living with her father and mother (Koulpata) and three children in 1877 when both the Oblate Missionary Census (OMI) and the (Indian Reserve Commission (IRC) censuses were taken. By 1891 she is listed as Catherine Bercier, having married the widower, Louis Bercier.

There is also a Lake Country connection to this family. Katrine’s daughter, Louise, married George Tronson of Vernon and they lived for many years with George’s mother, Nancy, in Sunnywold (Carr’s Landing) on the Commonage. According to the 1901 Canada Census, George and Louise Tronson had two children at that time, Ellen and Harry, who were the great-great grandchildren of Chief Kalamalka.

1 Bercier is misspelled in the obituary as Beircer.

2 Vernon News, February 25, 1926, p. 3.



  • I was always under the impression that “Kalamalka” meant “Lake of Many Colours” in the dialect of the First Nations people of that area.

  • Hi Louise.

    I think that the n’syilxcen word for the lake is Chi-loot-sus (or some other spelling of the spoken word), as Carmen Weld suggests. The lake is called “The Lake of Many Colours” by some people and for good reason, but it is not a translation of “Kalamalka.” One problem with the name Kalamalka is that it has no known or remembered n’syilxcen meaning. Similarly, current n’syilxcen speakers do not recall the exact meaning of Pelmewash, although this name appears on early colonial maps and early settlers reported that it was the name of Wood Lake.

    Duane Thomson

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