Here’s another image from the Canadian Rockies – immortalized on the Canadian $20 bill. Moraine Lake is one of the classic views of the Canadian Rockies, indeed, of anywhere. It’s a special place. The lake is most likely mis-named – it’s probably not a moraine that formed it at all, but a rock slide. The peaks that tower above the inviting turquoise lake are called the Wenkchemna Peaks. “Wenkchemna” is the Stoney Indian word for 10. The Stoney Indians lived in the area, and guided early European settlers and explorers in the region.
Samuel Allen and Walter Wilcox were 2 of the first European explorers in the area, and they’re generally credited with much of the initial exploration of the Canadian Rockies – given, of course, that various Indian Nations already lived there, and had done so for centuries, and called the place home. Wilcox was especially fond of Moraine Lake and Wenkchemna Peaks, claiming of the Valley of Ten Peaks that “no scene has ever given me an equal impression of in spiring solitude and rugged grandeur.” Wilcox Pass, up near the Columbia Icefields is named after Walter Wilcox. Interestingly, all of the Peaks were almost all later renamed, only 2 of them retaining the names the Stoney Indians knew them by. One of them was later named after Samuel Allen.
Personally, I like the idea of naming places and features in a way that offers some description of their subjectivity rather than naming them after some person we admire. I’d rather refer to the Valley of 10 Peaks than Wilcox Pass, for example. One is merely an abstraction, a reduction, the other is an acknowledgement of the physicality, or nature of the place. Wenkchemna it is!