Yellowhead Pass

Feature Type:Pass (2) - Low opening in a mountain range or hills, offering a route from one side to the other.
Name Authority: BC Geographical Names Office
Relative Location: On Hwy 16, BC-Alberta boundary, between Tête Jaune Cache and Jasper, Alberta, Cariboo Land District
Latitude-Longitude: 52°53'32"N, 118°27'54"W at the approximate centre of this feature.
Datum: WGS84
NTS Map: 83D/16

Other Recorded Names:

Caledonian Valley

Origin Notes and History:

Labelled on A.O. Wheeler's 1911 map of Mount Robson and vicinity, and presumed adopted in Geographic Board of Canada's "Place Names of Alberta", 31 December 1928.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

[see "The Yellowhead Route", Canadian Geographic Journal, November 1969.] Yellowhead Pass was discovered in 1827 according to Father Morice, OMI, historian of the northern interior British Columbia. Named (reputedly) after Tête Jaune, a fair-haired Indian trapper of the Iroquois tribe who went west with traders about 1816. He used the pass to take furs to Jasper. The Overlanders of 1862 went through the pass and down the North Thompson to Kamloops - this was a group of 36 who were aiming for the Cariboo, but decided to turn south at Tête Jaune rather than go northward on the unexplored Fraser; they settled around Kamloops. Viscount Milton and Dr. Cheadle made the same trip in 1863.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

"After Pierre Bostonais." (Smyth, David; "Some fur trade place names of the Yellowhead Pass: west of the summit to Tête Jaune Cache" published in CANOMA, the Journal of the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names, Vol. 11, No. 2, 1985, pp. 33-37).

Source: included with note

"Leather Pass" was another old name, referring to the supplies of moose and cariboo skins that were packed through here, destined for trading posts in New Caledonia. Used for mocassins, bags, ropes, etc.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

"The pêre de mon pêre [my grandfather] was named by the French trappers "Tête Jaune". He had established a trading post far up in the Pass. He was a very large man, tall and strong - a native of Normandy. His name was given him because, like many natives of Normandy with a strain of Scandinavian blood, he had a heavy crop of yellow hair tinged with gold..." (PABC, Peace River Material - Legends or Traditions of BC: "The True Story of the Yellowhead Pass", typed manuscript, dated c1918, unsigned, but evidently told by a grandchild.)

Source: Provincial Archives of BC "Place Names File" compiled 1945-1950 by A.G. Harvey from various sources, with subsequent additions

Yellowhead Pass (elev. 1,133 metres) was not explored until the 1820s, but ultimately became the most important rail and highway pass north of the Kicking Horse Pass. The pass and the BC community of Tête Jaune Cache both honour a fur trader.
For many years the names of Jasper Hawes, Francois Decoigne, and Pierre Hatsinaton were advanced as the "yellow headed" trader in question; but in 1984 David Smyth, a Parks Canada historian, established beyond doubt that the blond trader involved was really Pierre Bostonais. This mixed-blood Iroquois had worked for both the Hudson's Bay and the North West companies and was killed in the upper Peace River region in 1827. The pass, called merely a portage during the fur trade era, also became known as Leather Pass in the late 1800s, as hides had earlier been carried through it by traders from the Athabasca River on the east to New Caledonia on the west. Other names noted in the literature include Cowdung Pass, Leatherhead Pass, Jasper Pass, Jasper House Pass, Tête Jaune Passe, and Rocky Mountain Pass. Sandford Fleming failed in the 1880s to persuade the CPR to follow the route of the Yellowhead Pass, but it was ultimately chosen by both the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Canadian Northern Railway Companies. These were united in the 1920s into the Canadian National Railways, which has continued to use the pass as its main freight route to the Pacific coast. It is also used by Via Rail for passenger traffic between Vancouver, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. As well, the pass is the route of the Yellowhead Highway, which follows the same general route - Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper, and on to the coast."

Source: Rayburn, Alan; Naming Canada: stories about place names from Canadian Geographic; University of Toronto Press, 1994.

"Named after Francois Decoigne, fur-trader in charge of Jasper House, Brûlé lake, 1814, who was nicknamed Tête-Jaune or Yellowhead because of the colour of his hair. Cheadle says: "...from being the spot chosen by an Iroquois trapper, known by the sobriquet of Tête Jaune, or Yellow Head, to hide the furs he obtained on the western side." He also says the original "cache" was at the confluence of the Fraser and Robson Rivers." and "Yellowhead Pass.....also called Caledonian Valley. The valley of the Miette and Upper Fraser rivers was formerly so called because it was traversed by the Hudson's Bay Company's trail to New Caledonia (present-day central British Columbia)."

Source: Place Names of Alberta, Alberta Geographical Names Program and Friends of Geographical Names of Alberta Society, University of Calgary Press, 4 volumes, 1991-1996.

"Caledonia (Caledonian) valley was so called because it was traversed by the trail to New Caledonia, the Hudson's Bay Co's designation of the portion of British Columbia between the summit of the Rockies and of the Coast Range approximately." ("Place Names in Vicinity of Yellowhead Pass" by James White, Geographic Board of Canada, published in Canadian Alpine Journal, vol VI, 1914-15, pp.143-158)

Source: included with note

A site on the Alberta side of the interprovincial boundary was designated by Parks Canada in 1971 as a National Historic Site; NHS interpretive plaque installed in 1985.

Source: BC place name cards, or correspondence to/from BC's Chief Geographer or BC Geographical Names Office

The traditional name for this site is Ya ¿kti ¿ki, pronounced ya-k-thee-kee. [meaning/significance not provided] (April 2006 advice from Janice Alpine, Ktunaxa Language Program)

Source: included with note