A creek near Kylemore, Saskatchewan has been officially named to commemorate the Doukhobor settlers of the area. Blahoslovenie Creek, the name proposed by Doukhobor researcher and writer Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, was recently approved by the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board.
Blahoslovenie Creek is a small, seasonal stream which originates one kilometre west of Kylemore and winds south-eastward along an eight kilometre course before draining into Fishing Lake. Several marshes, wetlands and smaller streams feed the creek. Rain, snowmelt and groundwater contribute to its flow. Eighteen square kilometres of farmland – approximately eighteen hundred hectares – drain into the creek.
The name Blahoslovenie is the Russian term for ‘blessing’. “The name reflects the fertility and abundance of the land surrounding the creek,” said Kalmakoff, a leading authority on Doukhobor geographic names. “It also embodies the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Doukhobor pioneers who settled and developed the creek’s watershed.”
View of Blahoslovenie Creek from Highway No. 5 west of Kylemore.
In 1917-1918, Doukhobors belonging to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) purchased over four thousand five hundred hectares of land in the Kylemore area. There, under the motto of ‘Toil and Peaceful Life’, they cleared the forest, broke the land and established fourteen communal villages as well as a central store, warehouse, elevator, prayer home, blacksmith shop, granaries and barns. The communal farming enterprise at Kylemore lasted approximately twenty years. Following the collapse of the CCUB in 1937-1939, the land was sold and many of the Doukhobors relocated to British Columbia. Those who remained in the area – approximately ten families – became independent farmers. Many of their descendants still farm the original CCUB landholdings.
“The Doukhobors at Kylemore had a close association with the creek,” said Kalmakoff. “The creek flowed through the heart of the communal settlement. The Doukhobors lived and farmed along its banks and used its waters for domestic and agricultural purposes as well as recreational activities. Many of the Doukhobor pioneers were buried, fittingly, near the source of the creek.”
The official name comes after three years of consultations by Kalmakoff to gather feedback on the suitability and acceptance of the name from persons familiar with the area. The positive response was tremendous. Local Doukhobor residents supported the naming project. The Rural Municipality of Sasman No. 336 passed a resolution in favour of the name. As well, the Fishing Lake First Nation No. 89 passed a resolution endorsing the name.
The consultations were followed by a formal proposal to the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board, the Provincial body responsible for place names. The Board reviewed and investigated the name proposal in consultation with government departments and agencies. In its deliberations, the Board was guided by the Geographic Naming Policies, a rigorous set of principles governing the naming of geographic features. Its decision – which was solidly in favour of the name Blahoslovenie Creek – was then recommended to the Minister Responsible for the Board, the Hon. Eric Cline, Q.C. who approved the decision.
Now that the name is official, the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board will supply the information to government ministries and agencies, cartographers, publishers and other persons engaged in the preparation of maps and publications intended for official and public use.
“The naming of Blahoslovenie Creek signifies that the Doukhobor contribution to the history and development of the Kylemore area was substantial ,” said Kalmakoff. “It will be an important historic reference for Doukhobors and their future generations.”
For additional information or inquiries about Blahoslovenie Creek, email Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.