Naming Canada: Stories About Canadian Place Names. Rev. ed.
William A. Waiser is a professor of history at the University of
Saskatchewan. He is the author of Saskatchewan’s Playground: A History
of Prince Albert National Park and Park Prisoners: The Untold Story of
Western Canada’s National Parks, 1915–1946
Naming Canada is derived from a popular monthly column on toponymic
topics that Alan Rayburn originally published in Canadian Geographic
magazine between 1983 and 1993. Several of the columns formed the basis
for the first edition of the book in 1994. In this expanded (by about
100 pages) version, Rayburn has included material from his last set of
magazine columns in the mid-1990s, and has updated and revised several
of the chapters.
Naming Canada remains an entertaining and informative read, especially
for anyone with an interest in Canadian history and the derivation of
local place names. There are articles on why Canada is no longer
formally known as a “dominion”; how World War I battles have been
remembered on the home front; how Aboriginal words or terms continue to
dominate the landscape; how features have been renamed; how prominent
individuals have been honored; and how nicknames have come to be
associated with certain communities. All of these stories are told with
skill, clarity, and occasional wit.
Rayburn also discusses some of the continuing debates on Canadian
toponymic history. In the particular case of Saskatoon, for example, he
notes how provincial authorities have recently challenged the
longstanding story that the name was derived from the Cree word for
Saskatoon berries. Rayburn then presents his own research on the topic,
suggesting there is still merit in the original story.
What is clear from Naming Canada is that the history of Canada’s
place names is an ongoing exercise, ever subject to debate and