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Pukaskwa National Park of Canada

Origin of the name Pukaskwa

There are many spellings of the word "Pukaskwa" and many legends about the meaning of the word. Some contend that the word is descriptive terminology concerned with cleaning fish. Others suggest it could mean "eaters of fish," "something evil," or "safe harbour."

Sources at the Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre in Timmins indicate that the correct Roman orthography for "Pukaskwa" should be "Pukasu." In the past, native people were given names because of their deeds. The word "Pukasu" describes what people do when they cook the marrow inside the bones of animals. Remnants of a carcass are thrown into an open fire and left until any remaining meat has all burned away leaving the marrow cooked. In this case, the source of the name of what came to be known as the Pukasu River is the following:

According to legend, a native name Joe had a fierce fight with his wife at the mouth of the river. It is not clear if someone witnessed the event or if Joe told the story himself. Apparently, he killed her and then burned her body in the fire. When there was nothing left but charred bones, he picked them up and threw them into the river. Joe didn't eat his wife's bones, but he was given the name "Opakasu" which means cooker of marrow. The river was given the name Pukasu because of what Joe did at the river mouth.

We may never know the true origin of the name, but today it has become synonymous with the wild shores of Lake Superior known as Pukaskwa National Park.