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How Hekate Came to Vancouver Island

Image from Hecate Park & image of Hecate I made into a postcard.

I’ve grown up here on Vancouver Island. We moved here from Manitoba by the time I was 6 years old. It wasn’t until summer 2013 when I really became aware of the goddess Hekate (a story for another post) and it was another few years before I clued into the connection between three local places I knew about, Hecate Park, Hecate Island, and Hecate Strait, with the Goddess Herself. I think the delay was due to the difference in pronunciation, the locales are pronounced heck-ate, and after hearing it that way my entire life, it just took me some time to connect the dots!

Hecate Island, image by Kira Hoffman

Since that time I have discovered there are 16 locales (as well as a fishing lodge and an inn) named Hecate on Vancouver Island and in the surrounding areas! Obviously as a devotee of Hecate/Hekate, I was thrilled to have this physical connection to a goddess associated with such faraway lands in history, and lands so different than the Pacific Northwest. But as so often happens, the actual story of how these places came to be named Hecate is neither terribly exciting, nor surprising really when the history of this island is looked at.

1903 Nootka House

Kwakwakaʼwakw children in Yuquot (Friendly Cove)

Vancouver Island historically, and presently, is the unceded traditional territory of the Kwakwakaʼwakw, Nuu-chah-nulth and Coast Salish peoples. In the 1800s the British came and began their colonization of these lands as if they did not already belong to others. While this post isn’t about the atrocities that happened here, I would be remiss not to mention them. The repercussions are still being felt to this day. As an adult I was horrified, and angry, to learn a large proportion of Canadians actually know nothing about the attempted genocide. Though it is now finally starting to be talked about in schools, and in the news, much of the information being shared is still not entirely accurate and quite problematic. I am grateful to my grandparents (an amazing couple whom I have much more to write about in another post) that raised me to be respectful of the land and the historical inhabitants, as well as all of nature; and who are the reason I grew up aware of what happened in this place. My grandfather was very good friends with the Chief in the Nitinaht region on the southwest coat of the island (Ditidaht Peoples) during the 70s and 80s, and he had a daughter who was my very best friend. My grandfather would bring her down to stay with us in Victoria often, or she would spend time with us in Ucluelet when my grandparents resided there. We were even guests at a potlatch which was an amazing experience. I think it was due to this close relationship with this family that I grew up taking for granted the knowledge of the horrible things that occurred here and assumed that everyone knew. Due in part to this knowledge, I have always felt a strangely conflicted feeling about living here. I'm both at home with this island’s Spirit, yet also feel like a guest as I am not one of the Original Peoples of this land. In fact, I have always had this strange longing for Europe, although at this time, I have never stepped foot there. I feel that same conflict regarding being thrilled to have locations named Hekate here, whilst also knowing how those locations came to be named.

HMS Hecate aground in Neah Bay east of Cape Flattery between 15 and 21 August 1861

In 1860 Captain George Henry Richards first came to B.C. from England to do survey work on the H.M.S Plumper until she was decommissioned. He then continued the work aboard the H.M.S Hecate. And thus we can already see the origins of all these places being named Hecate. Captain Richards did survey work around Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast for two years. I was glad to read that by all accounts he was a kind and fair man. Oftentimes he was called to break up disputes between the Indigenous people and whites, and he would invariably always call out the whites as being in the wrong. There are also stories of him giving treats and gifts to the Indigenous people and being generally very kind. He was also quite a handsome bloke, I quite like his mutton chops and his wild hair!

Captain George Henry Richards, Royal Navy, BC Archives

In naming places around coastal BC, apparently the indigenous names were kept as much as possible, but much that was not named already or if the indigenous name could not be used, then those places would be given new names. Many of the names given by Capt. Richards were for his crew and even a favourite racehorse.

Here is the list I compiled of all the places named Hecate, on and around Vancouver Island, starting from the South and moving upward North Island and over to the Sunshine Coast.

Hecate Passage (E. of Chain Islets, W. of Plumper Passage)

Hecate Park (Cowichan Bay)

Hecate Street (Nanaimo)

Hecate Mountain (NE of junction of Uchucklesit Inlet and Alberni Inlet)

Hecate Bay (NW. of Meares Island, E. of Catface Range)

Hecate (abandoned locality NE side of Nootka Island)

Hecate Lake (N. end of Nootka Island, E. of Saltery Bay)

Hecate Channel (Between Zeballos and Tahsis Inlets)

Hecate 17 (East shore of Zeballos Arm of Esperanza Inlet)

Hecate Cove (N. side of Quatsino Sound, E. of Quatsino) [There is also the Hecate Cove Fishing Lodge]

Hecate Island (Just N of Calvert Island)

Hecate Strait (Between Haida Gwaii & mainland) [On Haida Gwaii there is the Hecate Inn]

Hecate Rock (shoal in Duncan Bay)

Hecate Rock (Goletan Channel, Mount Waddington)

Hecate Reefs (I’m assuming this refers to the reefs in Hecate Strait)

Hecate Place (street in Vancouver)

According to British Columbia Coast Names by John, T. Walbran, Hecate Strait, Bay, Passage, Channel, Cove, Island, Rock (there are two in two different places) and reefs were named directly by Capt Richards between 1861-1862. The other places will likely have been named directly from those named by Richards.

{With libraries & archives being closed due to Covid 19 I wasn't able to access some of the information I'd originally gathered when I started this article many years earlier. That said, I think it contains most, if not all of the relevant information.}

Lastly, I recently was also made aware of someone local who at one time had a boat named Hecate (retired), he sent me this image of the name boards from the boat. They named the boat due to the the family having had a long time interest in Greek mythology. Beautiful boards aren't they? Note the C shaped as a crescent moon!

Resources and references:

The private journal of Captain G.H. Richards: the Vancouver Island survey (1860-1862) (The first part is here: ) Ronsdale Press 2012

British Columbia Place Names G. P. V. Akrigg, Helen B. Akrigg, UBC Press 1997

British Columbia Coast Names 1592-1906 by John Walbran, J.J. Douglas Ltd 1977-2003

The Coast of British Columbia: Including the Juan de Fuca Strait, Puget Sound, Vancouver and Queen Charlotte Islands, United States. Hydrographic Office, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1891 - British Columbia

Image Citations:

Nootka (Nuu-cha-nulth) House, 1903, Meany, Edmond S. (1862-19350 IN Meany Album v.2, p. 26, Digital Collection: American Indians of the Pacific Northwest Images, Edmond Meany Collection no. 132, Negative Number: NA 1150

Nuu-chah-nulth children at Friendly Cove, 1930s Alamy Stock Photo/Contributor Matteo Omied, Image ID 2BD7Y77

HMS Hecate - Public Domain

Captain George Henry Richards, Royal Navy; HMS Hecate and HMS Plumper, BC Archives, A-02432

Originally published June 7th, 2020 on a previous blog This post has also, more recently, been published over at the Covenant of Hekate website, Dec 24, 2023:



Jan 29

Super interesting!

Jan 30
Replying to

Thank you for reading, I'm glad you enjoyed it! 🐍

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