Lillooet eymology

Mike Cleven ironmtn at BIGFOOT.COM
Wed Mar 10 07:29:46 UTC 1999

This is a spin-off from my opus on the Cayuse War (in the Chinook list),
but I'd been meaning to make this query for the last couple of days

There are three accounts of the meaning of the name Lillooet.  The
best-known is that when the name "Lillooet" was chosen by vote of the
former community of Cayoosh, it was considered to be an adoption of the
name of "the Old Lillooet" (the former steamboat communities of Lillooet
Lake, plus the Lil'wat community that is today's Mt. Currie) - which is why
permission to use the name was sought by the Stl'atl'imx chiefs from their
Lil'wat cousins.  But another popular account well-known to old-timers says
that this name was already known at the locale, and meant either "end of
the trail" or "wild onions".

Well, in the main form(s) of the Jargon, "wild onions" are "ululach", which
can sort of be contorted/simplified into "lillooet", unless it's a local
St'at'imcets word or a local take on the Jargon word.  As for "end of the
trail", I can kind of see the "wayhut", "ooahut" on the end there -
especially allowing for deformations of the Jargon - but I'm not sure what
the "lill-" part of it would be.  There's one possibility that occurred to
me - some kind of wagoneer's/teamster's call for "lolo wayhut" - "haul the
road", perhaps implying "load up" or even "turn".  Such a phrase might have
been a common call on the busy "Golden Mile" of Lillooet's wagon-train
staging grounds.....a reference to the "end of the trail" leading up the
canyon and over Pavilion Mountain into the Cariboo.

Any Salishan people who might know some other etymologies?  I'm sure that
the Lil'wat-borrowing version is the P.C. one these days, but the other two
are part of local folklore.  I'm also curious as to what the actual
St'at'imcets etymology of "Lil'wat" itself is, and to what degree the
historic dialect(s) in that valley differ from the Lakes and Canyon
dialects.  One of the new subdivisions on the Mt. Currie reserve, by the
way, is "Xitolacw", which if I recall means some kind of berry plant. And a
locally-significant political site is a locality on the west side of
Lillooet Lake opposite the reserve, known as "Axa7" = the "land of the
dead" and an ancestral graveyard involved in a memorable logging-vs.-native
fracas a few years ago.

Mike Cleven
ironmtn at

The thunderbolt steers all things.
                           - Herakleitos

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