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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 the summer of 2013 that I became aware of the goddess Hekate 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 exciting nor surprising 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 knew 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 who 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 coast 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, assuming 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. And 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 was 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. If you know of any others, please let me know!


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


Hecate Park (Cowichan Bay)


Hecate Street (Nanaimo)


Hecate Mountain (NE of the 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 and 1862. The other places will likely have been named directly from those named by Richards.



These are the maps I used for roughly noting the locations.


Lastly, I was also made aware of someone local who at one time had a boat named Hecate (retired), and he sent me this image of the name-boards from the boat. They named the boat due to the family having had a long-time interest in Greek mythology. Beautiful aren't they? Note the C is shaped like 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: http://ronsdalepress.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Private-Journal.pdf ) 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 BC Geographical Names https://apps.gov.bc.ca/pub/bcgnws/ 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 Dictionary Of Canadian Biography http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/richards_george_henry_12E.html Cobble Hill Historical Society https://cobblehillhistory.org/vignettes/item/26-hms-hecate https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/vancouver-island#:~:text=The%20Treaty%20of%20Washington%20(1846,of%20British%20Columbia%20in%201871 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 Lotus' blog}


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Cece Pitts
Cece Pitts
Feb 13
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I moved to Vancouver Island in 2015 and by 2017 I was a devotee of Hekate, having never heard of Her before. Then when I first read your blog about the several locations named after Her here I knew I was brought here to find Her. Thank you so much for taking the time to map out all the locations, I’ve been to a few and hope to visit more of them soon!

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lotus
lotus
Feb 14
Replying to

I'd love to set foot on Hecate Island especially.

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

It is kind of bittersweet (and I really have no idea how I manage to get this written in italics, but oké, LOL) that the reason for all the places named Hekate was colonisation, but nontheless they are there now, and so many! I enjoyed the way you wrote this.

Diana van den Branden

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lotus
lotus
Feb 14
Replying to

Thanks for reading it Diana, I'm glad you liked it. :-)

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you very much for sharing this interessting piece of history with us, together with your own personal story. <3

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lotus
lotus
Jan 26
Replying to

Thank you for reading, I had so much fun researching this!

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Sara.Vervain
Sara.Vervain
Jan 25
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I LOVE history so I really enjoyed the history of the HMS Hecate. Even when reality kicks in and explanations are not that extraordinary you can still feel that magic is in the air

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lotus
lotus
Jan 26
Replying to

That's exactly it, there is definitely still a whiff of magic!

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