Imagine back over 140 years ago. Who decided to name this place Manitoba? Then who decided to name this city Winnipeg?
The exact, detailed history is partially a mystery. What ideas were going through whose heads? Those fateful days of naming these places still have their lasting impact today. Does anyone know all the details about how these names were chosen?
Manitoba is a native word that refers to some ideas about a spirit place, which is how Lake Manitoba was named earlier. I can imagine Thomas Spence, the Scottish settler near Portage la Prairie, thinking about the Great Spirit, or Creator God. Spence wanted to give a good name for the new republic he envisioned, just south of Lake Manitoba.
It was originally named New Caledonia, and he should have written down why he picked the name Manitoba instead of Caledonia. Was the new republic a direct reference to the spirit place of Lake Manitoba? Or did Spence have some other ideas in mind?
Maybe Spence joked about naming the new place as Government of Spirit. Maybe the State of Supernatural Being? Or how about the Republic of Ghosts? Divine Municipality? Luckily Louis Riel also liked the name of Manitoba and promoted it a few years later.
Riel had many Godly ideas in mind as well, but why did he also pick this native word about the spirit place of that lake? For how long was that lake associated with the Manitoba name? A supernatural sound, near what place exactly?
We will never know all the details that were not written down or passed along orally. It is a strange and interesting story for how this place was named. The mysteries about this idea of spirit continue.
Then came the founders of a city that would become Canada’s third largest. Is Winnipeg named after the lake to the north? Winnipeg, or Muddy Waters, is another native word, but do we have the best translation? Was it a Red River color?
Manitoba was also picked as a name because of the lake near to Spence. Why name these places after the lakes? Perhaps those lakes, waterways, canoe routes, and fur trade routes were more on the minds of those early settlers? Maybe they imagined giant cities growing closer to the lakes? Historic facts can quickly fade into obscurity.
Many citizens know very little about the history of Canada. The start of wisdom is to know how much we really do not know. History is all around you. Why do you have that last name? Why does your street have that name? What is the historical origin of your first name? The answers can be fascinating if we start to wonder.
The ideas of the past inside someone’s mind becomes a major part of our present. The historic origins started with an individual or two, talking, thinking out loud, and it grew from there. Thomas Spence and Louis Riel had many interesting ideas about this place. If only we knew more about all the unknowns. Can this mysterious spirit guide us?