BC Geographical Names

Name Details:

Name: Okanagan Lake
Feature TypeClick here for a list of
Feature Types.
Lake - Inland body of standing water
StatusClick here for an explanation of Status.: Official
Name Authority: BC Geographical Names Office
Relative Location: Extending from Vernon to Penticton, SE of Kamloops, Osoyoos Division Yale Land District
Latitude-LongitudeClick here for an explanation of Position Type.: 49°55'15''N, 119°30'00''W at the approximate centre of this feature.
DatumClick here for an explanation of Datum.: NAD83
NTS MapClick here for an explanation of NTS Map.: 82E/14
Related MapClick here for an explanation of Related Maps.: 82E/12
  Nearby names within

Origin Notes and History:

Adopted 6 October 1936 on Geological Survey sheet 420A, Kettle River, as spelled on BC Lands map of British Columbia by J.W. Trutch, 1871 et seq, and as identified in the 1909 BC Gazetteer.
Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office
Identified as "Big Okanakan Lake" on 1827 Sketch of Thompson's River District, by Archibald McDonald, HBC; labelled "Great Okinagan Lake" on A. C. Anderson's 1867 map.
Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office
Area = 136 sq. miles (361 sq. km), the 8th largest lake entirely within BC; extends 69 miles north to south; deepest point = 794 ft (242 m).
Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office
"Okanagan: Various opinions have been given as to the meaning of this euphonious name, popular on both sides of the International Boundary. One is that is means "rendezvous" and was applied to the head of the river at Lake Osoyoos where the Indians of British Columbia and Washington often gathered for the annual potlatch and to lay in supplies of fish and game. (Myron Fells, in American Anthropologist, January 1892; cited in Wash. Hist. Quar., 11 (1920); 290-291. Natives say it means "Big Head" and is the name of a people having exceptional skill and valour and other admirable qualities, a "chosen people." Further, see Ok. 6:133-136; Parham, 40. The name has the distinction of having been spelled in no less than forty-six different ways. Lewis and Clark in 1805 spelled it Otchenaukane; David Thompson in 1811 had it Teekanoggin, Oachenawawgan and Ookanawgan, and in 1813 Ookenawkane; while in the transfer from the Pacific Fur Company to the North West Company in 1813 it was Okunaakan. Other spellings have been: Oakinagan (1831); Okanagan (1840); Okinagans (1842); Okenakanes (1842); Okinekane (1843); Okanakanes (1843); Okinakan (1846); Oinacken (1847); O-ki-wah-kine (1848); O'Kina hain (1848); Oukinegans (1850); Okinakanes (1854); Okonagan (1854); Okonegan (1854); Oakanagans (1855); Okanesganes (1855); Okinhane (1856); Omahanes (1856); O'Kanies-kanies (1856); Okiakanes (1857); Okin-e-Kanes (1857); O-kin-i-kanes (1857); O'Kinakanes (1857); O-kan-a-kan (1871); O-kan-a-kan (1871); Okinokans (1878); Okinaken (1889); Okanaken (1890); Oukinagans (1890); Oo-ka-na-kane (1891); Okanagon (1900); Okanegan; Oknagan; Oknagen; Oakenagen; Oakanazan; Okinikaine; Oknanagans; Okinaganes; Okawaujou. The name is now spelled Okanagan in Canada, Okanogan in the United States." (12th Report of the Okanagan Historical Society, 1948, citing Ok. 6:133-136; Symons, 130)
Source: included with note
At least forty-seven different spellings of this name have been found, beginning with Lewis and Clark's "Otchenaukane" in 1805 and David Thompson's "Ookanawgan" in 1811. Sometimes there seem to be just about as many theories as to the derivation of the name. One of the more likely explanations is that the name comes from "kana" meaning "the place of," and "gan" meaning "water" or "lake". Another is that Okanagan comes from "au-wuk-ane" meaning "men with short hair." The former theory is supported by Professor Boas, the latter by Chief Pierre Louis.
Source: Akrigg, Helen B. and Akrigg, G.P.V; 1001 British Columbia Place Names; Discovery Press, Vancouver 1969, 1970, 1973.
"There are many theories as to the derivation of the name, but the majority agree that the compound word "Okanagan" contains the word for "head". One likely translation is "looking toward the upper end [head]"; another is "seeing the top or head", possibly referring to the summit of Mt. Chopaka. The anthropologist Teit wote, "Okanagan is said to be derived from the name of a place on Okanagan River, somewhere near the Falls, so named because it was the 'head' of the river, at least insofar as the ascent of salmon was concerned"." (Okanagan Indian Band website, 2013)
Source: included with note