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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Canada Island renamed in Salish for the Spokane Tribe

Canada Island, called "the little island" by the earliest settlers, may be renamed to reflect the native heritage. Photographed Friday, Sept. 9, 2016.  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Canada Island has its new name.

The Spokane Park Board unanimously approved on Thursday the name “snxw meneɂ” (sin-HOO-men-huh) to replace the moniker Canada Island on the two-acre crag splitting the upper Spokane Falls. The name, meaning “salmon people” in English, was one of two forwarded by the Spokane Tribal Business Council earlier this year and received the most votes in a public poll hosted by the Spokane Parks Department.

The other option translated in English to “a land that causes a fork in the river.”

Canada Island was previously known as Cannon Island, for one of Spokane’s founders, Anthony McCue Cannon, and Crystal Island, for the commercial laundry headquartered there for decades. The city purchased the land in 1972 for $550,000 in anticipation of the World’s Fair and handed creative control over to the government of Canada.

Local tribes fished the areas around Spokane Falls before westward-traveling Americans began settling the city in the late 19th century. Chinook salmon, some of them as large as 70 pounds, were caught near the falls before the installation of dams stemmed the flow of fish in the early 20th century.

Park officials had already removed the sign designating Canada Island on Thursday afternoon, anticipating the name-change vote, said Leroy Eadie, director of Spokane parks. Future signage, including a potential audio track demonstrating how to pronounce the word in Salish, will be developed in conjunction with the tribe, which is now being given some creative control over the future design of the island.

“I think, as Leroy eloquently put it, it’d be great if all of Spokane could at least learn one Salish word,” said Ted McGregor, publisher of the Inlander and chair of the park board subcommittee overseeing work in Riverfront Park, said before the vote.

The Canadian government approved of the name change, through a diplomat who visited Spokane during the Spokane tribe’s annual Gathering at the Falls Pow Wow last summer.