Killarney Provincial Park sits ten kilometers down the road from the village of Killarney. So how did village and park come to be named? Great question.
The short answer: no one seems to know. Here’s the longer – but still very brief – answer:
- The original name for what the settlers called Killarney was Shebahonaning, Anishinaabemowin for ‘canoe passage’. Given the number of Indigenous and European traders who used canoes to pass through here – either going west to Thunder Bay or east to the Atlantic – this seems like a wholly practical name. One that maybe should still stand today.
- Based on archaeological digs in the provincial park, scientists believe people – specifically the Plano culture – have inhabited Shebahonaning for about 9,000 years (i.e. since after the last Ice Age).
- The land belonged to the Ojibwe, Odawa (also Ottawa or Adawe, Algonquin for the verb “to trade”), and Potawatomi (“Keepers of the Sacred Fire”) nations. They may have arrived in the area around the year 1400, migrating west from Hudson Bay.
- Fast forward two hundred years and they would have come in contact with the French through the fur trade in the 1600s. Wars with the Iroquois in the same century spread the nations to the east, west, and south to the U.S. However, many of the current residents can trace their roots back to the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi nations or to the Métis community.
The Settlers Arrive
- The first white, permanent settler, Etienne de Lamorandiere, arrived in the area in 1820 with his wife Josephite Sai-sai-go-no-kwe and their children. They opened a fur trade store, independent of Hudson Bay Company or North West Company. They’re identified as the first Métis family in Killarney.
- Over fifty years, the community evolved to a mix of Indigenous, Métis, English, and Scottish people who primarily fished, farmed, and traded fur. Logging, mining, and tourism followed.
- This community still called it “Shebahonaning” up until the 1840s. The Post Office mysteriously changed the postal stamp from Shebahonaning to Killarney in the 1850s.
Killarney Provincial Park Established
- And with that brief historical snapshot of how “Killarney” came to be, the park takes its name from the village down Hwy. 637.
- The government of Ontario established Killarney Provincial Park in 1964 thanks to earlier efforts by the Group of Seven to preserve the area that they loved to paint.