Saturday, December 15, 2012

How Ottawa got its name.

Ottawa is the capital of Canada. Originally christened Bytown, it was renamed as Ottawa in 1855. Ottawa gets its name from the Ottawa river which in turn takes its name from the Ojibwe tribe 'Odawas' who happened to be located near the river. Historians somehow seem to think that 'Odawas' means 'traders' and hence that's become the officially sanctioned etymology for Ottawa.

I have a slightly different take. Yes, Ottawa owes its existence to Odawas. But 'traders' just doesn't seem logical. Ancient tribes usually name themselves after geographical markers and not their occupation. Here was a river side tribe who also indulged in trading. Why would they call themselves traders? Wouldn't they call themselves, the river people?

If for a moment, we were to assume that the Ojibwes were long-lost nomadic Dravidian tribes from India, then we'll be in a position to solve this jigsaw more elegantly. 'Odai' in Tamil means 'river'. And -va is an Indian suffix to cue origin (the Pandavas, for example, are 'those who were beget by Pandu'). So Odaiwa will mean 'river people'. And that's how I think Ottawa got its name.

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