Couple seeks help from Interior bands to find traditional name for their son

Mary Hill (left) and Riley Caputo (right) are about to have a child and are looking for help giving him a traditional name.
Image Credit: Contributed photo by Heather Hadland-Dudoward


KAMLOOPS - A father-to-be is looking to help reconnect his son, due any day, with his family's roots long lost in the residential school system.

Riley Caputo, 26, and Mary Hill, 36, of Prince Rupert are about to have a baby boy. While the couple considered a name from the Gitxaala Nation, which they are both part of, complications have them broadening to traditional Secwepemc names for their son.

“Mary is Williams Lake, Kamloops and Kitkatla,” he says. “We’re looking for something that sounds good and that is truly from the language.”

While his son will have Gitxaala (near Prince Rupert) heritage, Caputo says protocol is an obstruction. In the Gitxaala culture names have to be planned a year in advance. Additionally, they’re updated over time, with a person earning new names as they get older. Caputo says it wouldn’t really be appropriate for a birth certificate or a name in day-to-day use.

So he’s looking to the B.C. Interior where Hill's mother is from.

Growing up in West Kelowna, Caputo knows the names of that region. He hopes there are names from the Tk’emlups and Williams Lake bands that will sound similar, perhaps more modern, but still reflect his son's heritage.

“A girl I went to high school with is a member of the Westbank First Nation and her name is Kykate,” he says. “She had a brother who passed away named Makwalla. I thought those were the coolest names I've ever heard of.”

Because the Shuswap language is similar to the Okanagan, Caputo hopes he’ll be able to find a name that sounds good and reflects his son's heritage.

"I want to make sure that he learns about the culture and enjoys being a part of it," Caputo says.

The easiest access to his son’s Secwepemc heritage was erased by the residential school system and created a challenge likely faced by many First Nations people struggling to regain their heritage and traditions. Hill’s mother was from the Tk’emlups and Williams Lake bands, but was put into the residential school system at a young age and lost her connection to the language and people.

However, there's also a time crunch. They expect the baby to be born much sooner than the Nov. 22 due date.

Caputo is urgently looking for help. He’s found a dictionary of words and potential names, but without the guidance of someone who knows the language he’s uncertain about picking a name from the book.

"I’m not really sure if something is proper to be used as a name," he says. "I didn’t want to just use something from a dictionary."

He's asking for help from anyone who knows the names of the Williams Lake Indian Band and Tk'emlups te Secwepemc.

His son could be born very soon, as early as this week, and he's hoping to hear suggestions as soon as possible. If you can help, provide suggestions below or contact him directly.

— This story was corrected at 1:58 p.m. Nov. 1 to correct the reason why the couple are not considering a Gitxaala name and name of the Gitxaala Nation. This story was filed in corrections.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

ALBAS: Income tax season is upon us
  OPINION This week’s report is a reminder that in a little over a month, April 30, the majority of Canadians need to complete and file their 2017 Canada Income Tax returns to avoid potential late penalties.

Top News