Thinking about the flatly named Park Bridge of yesterday's post – maybe there was a Mr. Park connected to the CPR or Golden but it is hardly a name to capture the imagination – yesterday on CBC there was a repeat of Paolo Pietropaolo's radio documentary on the Salish Sea.
This is the new name for the waters known as the Johnstone Strait, the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Georgia for George III, named by George Vancouver, happy coincidence that. Juan de Fuca was a Spanish explorer who was in the area in 1592 looking for a northwest passage. Peter Puget was a lieutenant on Vancouver's expedition in 1792.
The Johnstone Strait is bordered by Queen Charlotte Strait and is towards the top eastern end of Vancouver Island. James Johnstone was another member of Vancouver's expeditionary fleet and was the one who ascertained that Vancouver Island was an island. Queen Charlotte was the queen of George III and also the name of one of the ships of George Dixon who surveyed the Queen Charlotte Islands, known now as Haida Gwaii. Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca are within US territory, the rest are in Canada. The Strait of George is sometimes known as the Gulf of Georgia, thus the Gulf Islands, which extend into US territory and are there known as the San Juan Islands.
This whole waterway shall soon be officially known as the Salish Sea, surrounded as it is by the Salish peoples. The naming of the Salish Sea removes the political markings on the water delineated by colonial names. The old names are all related to land ownership. Salish Sea is about the sea, not the land. One of the Salish chiefs called in 'our highway'. Interestingly it includes, within this name, the watersheds of the streams and rivers that feed it, thus extending way into the land confounding our usual notions of a sea as being something like a salt water lake. The Salish Sea defines a very precise bioregion, reminding us that colonial political boundaries almost inevitably sliced apart all the natural divisions of the land and people. The naming of the Salish Sea is a rather miraculous decolonising act, and one that is, equally miraculously, supported and promoted by all the governments within its territory.