The Salish Sea, pronounced say-leesh, is the location of the San Juan Islands. The Salish Sea, according to Wikipedia, includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound, and all their connecting channels and adjoining waters, such as Haro Strait, Rosario Strait, Bellingham Bay, Hood Canal, and the waters around and between the San Juan Islands in the U.S. state of Washington and the Gulf Islands in British Columbia, Canada.[ This name was not used until a marine biologist in Bellingham came up with the term in 1988. It includes about 6,900 square miles. Before that name was agreed upon by Canada and the United States, the individual names of the waters within were used. In general, we used the term, “in the San Juans” since there was no broader term except for Puget Sound.
Surprisingly, the native Americans far away in Montana near Flathead Lake are also referred to as Salish. The name Salish refers to the similarities of the indigenous languages. The Salish family consists of 23 separate languages. The Interior Salish are therefore distinguished as apart from the “Coast Salish in the San Juans. In 2008, when the name was suggested as a geographical name, it was the Chemainus First Nation people who proposed the change. (In Canada the term “First Nations” refers to indigenous peoples”). The Geographical Names Board of Canada was the body that gave approval. In Washington, the State Board on Geographic Names approved the new name in 2009. Because Canada has two languages, the French name Mer de Salish is also official in Canada.
The Salish Sea was a name that was needed to distinguish a separate part of the Pacific Ocean that had differences from the more open body of water due to the protection of the islands located within it. It seems like a beautiful and peaceful name for the scenic and navigational waters that surround our islands. It is also a reminder of the native Americans that paddled their canoes through the sea to gather salmon and walked our shores for oysters.
Photo Courtesy of Chris Teren ~ www.terenphotography.com