Phonetic pronunciation of the original word, Kw'o:kw'e'kw'iya:la , is kokahala:
rhymes with slow
rhymes with the
rhymes with pal
sounds like ah
When we were developing our eco retreat concept, we wanted to commemorate it in a way that respected our natural surroundings and our eco philosophies.
We asked the elders of the Sto:lo First Nations if there was an aboriginal derivative of the Coquihalla River. The elders very graciously provided their story-origin of Coquihalla from their native Halq'emeylem language.
The Sto:lo First Nations story-origin is based on local mythology:
Long ago there were places in these river waters that were home to little water babies. These little babies, skw'ikw'iy, were known to be very stingy with the fish, or kw'o:kw'ekw'iy.
If the kw'o:kw'ekw'iy did not like you, if you were disrespectful of mother earth (temexw), they would not let you catch any fish, and your people would starve.
The moral of the story, therefore, is to be respectful of mother earth and you will be blessed by the kw'o:kw'ekw'iy with fish bounty to feed your people.
A-la or t-ala means “container”.
Thus, the places or pools in the river containing these stingy little water people were called Kw'o:kw'e'kw'iya:la.
This was too long and too difficult for the settlers to say, so they called it ”kokahala” and spelled it ”Coquihalla”.
Hence, the name of our eco retreat denotes that you are “at a special place in the river home to these stingy little water babies, and to be respectful of mother earth so you will be blessed with food for your peoples”… you are “at Kw'o:kw'e:hala”.
A footnote to the above translation is provided by way of a report prepared by Brian Thom for the Ministry of Forests. He describes that when the masses of settlers came around too much, the water babies left. He also notes that the word Coquihalla now names a river, a valley, and a highway, which are considered to be misuses of the word by non-natives and this in itself, he notes, indicates a lack of respect for Aboriginal culture.
We use the shortened form of this name with respect for its origins, with permission from the elders, properly denoting we are ”at” one of the places, where, we believe, the water babies once resided.
An alternate derivation may come from the word “kueq”, meaning Steelhead trout, as depicted in “The Salish People: Volume 3 The Mainland Halkomelem by Charles Hill-Tout”. We understand that the river on which we reside may also be named for kueqa-a-la, or steelhead container. This story intuitively gives rise to the name Coquihalla River as it is one of only two rivers in BC with two spawning runs of Steelhead trout annually.