SASKATCHEWAN RIVER IN CANADA – THE SANSKRIT CONNECTION

In native American languages the word for ‘water’ seems to stem from the Sanskrit ‘apa’ which means ‘water’. In Cree, the word for water is ‘nipiy’ and does contain the Sanskrit sound ‘apa’ (आप) as ‘ipi’. In Sanskrit ‘apa’ (आप) means ‘water’, as does ‘ap’ (अप्). ‘Piva’ (पीवा) also means water in Sanskrit.

The native American Cree name of the Saskatchewan River (a major river in Canada) was ‘Kisiskaciwani-sipiy’, which translates as ‘swift flowing river’. In the Cree language though ‘nipiy’ means ‘water’, ‘sipiy’ stands for ‘river’. In Sanskrit the verb ‘srv’ (स्रव) stands for ‘flow’ or ‘waterfall’, hence ‘sravin’ (स्राविन्) is ‘flowing’ or ‘streaming’. The root word for water flow is ‘sR’ (सृ), hence ‘sarati’ (सरति) ‘to flow’, or ‘sravati’ (स्रवति) ‘gush forth’.

River Saskatchewan


In Cree language ‘Katastapehk’ corresponds with ‘fast’ or swift and explains the first part of Kisiskaciawani. The second part of the word is identical to the Sanskrit ‘avani’ (अवनि) which means ‘river’ and ‘flowing’ as well. Again in Cree, ‘aseciwan’ means ‘flowing backwards’, and ‘peciciwan’ means ‘flowing this way’ – the ‘ciavan’ has to do with water flow, just like the Sanskrit ‘avani’.


There are many other Cree words which bear a remarkable similarity to Sanskrit – such as ‘yotin’ which means ‘wind’. This seems to have originated from Sanskrit ‘vata’ (वात) if one were to transpose the sound ‘y’ with ‘v’.

Curiously the Cree ‘yotinpeyaw’ means ‘wind on water’ – here the ‘yotin’ stands for wind, and ‘peyaw’ means ‘water’, which brings us back to the Sanskrit ‘piva’ (पीवा) also meaning water.


In his book ‘Oriental Fragments’, Edward Moor without referring to its meaning in Cree language, breaks up Saskatchewan into Sasa, Katchwa and ‘van’. In his chapter on ‘Sanskrit in North American names’  he says,” ‘The plains of the Saskatchewan’ – how Sanskritic! – Sasa  (or sasin) a hare, katchwa,- a tortoise and van, a vehicle….”



Suggested Links:

Cree dictionary

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