Indigenous Ward Names Approved
The bylaw approving the new ward boundaries and Indigenous Ward Names was passed by Council on December 7, 2020.
Learn about the Committee of Indigenous Matriarchs and how they determined each of the ward names.
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Indigenous Elders and urban Indigenous community members approached City Council to consider renaming Edmonton’s newly amended wards with Indigenous names. On June 16, 2020, Council directed the administration and the Naming Committee of Council to explore new Indigenous names and return in the fall.
Edmonton has been a gathering place for Indigenous Peoples for thousands of years. iyiniw iskwewak wihtwawin (the committee of Indigenous matriarchs) have gifted traditional names to the City’s naming committee to honour these sacred places in Edmonton and to preserve the history for future generations.
Indigenous cultures traditionally uphold women as leaders in their communities, which is why they were chosen to lead this initiative. This is an opportunity for reconciliation for matriarchs to reclaim their roles within the community.
The committee is made up of 17 women from First Nations in Treaty No. 6, 7, 8, as well as Métis and Inuit representatives. They represent the Anishinaabe, Blackfoot, Cree, Dene, Inuit, Iroquois (Michel Band), Métis and Sioux nations.
Indigenous language of origin: Sioux
Name Meaning: The People.
Pronunciation: NA-KOH-TAH EE-SKA
In 1880, the Alexis Nakota Sioux (Nakota Isga or Stoney in English) people took reserve (No. 133) at the shore of Lake Wakamne after signing an adhesion to Treaty Six. They established themselves along the Saskatchewan and Athabasca rivers, setting up fur trading posts along the way.
The Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation is the furthest northwestern representative of the Siouan language family. While this group mingled with neighbouring Cree nations for centuries, it managed to maintain a unique cultural identity as a Nakota nation.
In 1995, Alexis Treaty Land Entitlement led to the establishment of Alexis' Whitecourt (No. 232), Elk River (No. 233) and Cardinal River (No. 234) reserves. To this day, many Alexis people use the name Isga to refer to themselves.
Indigenous language of origin: Inuktun
Name Meaning: Breath of Life.
The Inuit - Inuktitut (ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ) for "the people" - are the northernmost Indigenous people in Canada. Their traditional homeland is known as Inuit Nunangat.
In the 1950s and 60s, about one-third of Inuit people were infected with tuberculosis. Most were flown south for treatment in sanitariums like the Charles Camsell Indian Hospital in Edmonton, where they stayed for an average of two and a half years.
Those who survived returned home, but many Inuit passed away, often without their families being notified, and were buried in cemeteries in Edmonton, far from their homeland.
This ward was given the name Anirniq (ᐊᓂᕐᓂᖅ) which means ‘Breath of Life,’ or spirit. The name was recommended by Inuit Elders because tuberculosis took the breath and spirit of many Indigenous people.
Indigenous language of origin: Cree
Name Meaning: The In-between People.
The name tastawiyiniwak, is the nêhiyawak (Cree) term referring to the LGBTQ2S+ community. Its rough English translation is “in-between people.” The Cree heritage does not have a binary view of gender, or of traditional gender roles. In fact, the Cree worldview recognized eight genders, and each had their own role to play in the betterment of their community.
The Cree believe all people are unified by a single ahcahk (spirit). Each individual could choose where they belonged, what responsibilities they bore to their community, and were free to move between roles as they wished. This is the origin of the term tastawiyiniwak, or "in-between people."
The tastawiyiniwak ward name calls for a more equal future for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Indigenous language of origin: Dene
Name Meaning: People of land and water.
The word Dene refers to the various tribes and people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that settled along the North Saskatchewan River and who live there now. Many Dene tribes settled along the shores of the river, including the area where Edmonton now sits.
Dene people in Alberta include the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the Cold Lake First Nations, and Dene Tha First Nation. Dene people are spread across Canada with the largest concentration of Dene language speakers living in Saskatchewan. Dene languages became one of the official languages of the Northwest Territories in 1990.
Indigenous language of origin: Anishinaabe
Name Meaning: Strawberry or Heart-berry (The heart through which the North Saskatchewan River runs).
O-day’min, the strawberry, or heart berry, represents the heart of Edmonton, amiskwaciwâskahikan. The stem of the heart represents the North Saskatchewan River, the vessels are the waterways, while the veins make up the blood (people). The roots (veins) of the strawberry represent the different cultures that now make up the city.
The O-day’min is a traditional medicine that guided the Anishinaabe (people with the shared culture and language of the Algonquian tribes) understanding of the deep connection between mind, body, spirit and emotions.
Anishinaabe peoples are found across Canada, and in Alberta have been referred to as the Saulteaux. The O’Chiese First Nation near Rocky Mountain House is home to Anishinaabe peoples.
Indigenous language of origin: Michif
Name Meaning: Given the history of the area and the use of the Riverlot system in this ward, a Métis name was chosen.
The Métis people originated in the early 1700s when French and Scottish fur traders married Indigenous women, such as the Cree, and Anishinaabe (Ojibway). After a few generations, the descendants of these marriages formed a distinct culture, collective consciousness and nationhood in the northwest.
As the fur trade slowed, Métis people developed farms on river lots close to Fort Edmonton. The shape and position of these lots is a reflection of the city’s design. Because of their integral part in the formation of the city, this ward has been given the name Métis to honour a cornerstone in Edmonton’s history.
Indigenous language of origin: Enoch Cree
Name Meaning: References the people of the Enoch Cree Nation being River Cree.
Because of their proximity to the North Saskatchewan River, Enoch Cree Nation members were known as the River Cree to other tribes, or in the Cree language, sipiwiyiniwak.
In the 1800s, the Enoch Cree Nation was an area of 44 square miles that stretched from north of Big Island to present day Stony Plain Road. In 1884, Chief Enoch Lapotac signed an Adhesion to Treaty 6, but involuntary land surrenders caused the loss of over half of Enoch land. The Enoch First Nation, and its more than 2,500 members, is situated on Treaty 6 Territory in central Alberta, bordering the west side of the city of Edmonton. They continue to fight for their land rights today.
Indigenous language of origin: papaschase
Name Meaning: papastew was a highly respected leader of the papaschase Band #136 and signed an adhesion to Treaty 6 in 1877. papastew translates to large woodpecker.
papastew, also known as Papaschase, was the respected leader of the Papaschase Band, which resided in the Edmonton area in the late 1800s. The Chief’s name translates to large woodpecker in English.
When land was surveyed for the Papaschase Band in 1880 south of the North Saskatchewan River, they were given a 40-square-mile plot, too small to meet the needs of their 249 members. The local Indian Agent then arbitrarily transferred people off the band list. Additionally, local settlers didn't want the community too close and petitioned the federal government to eventually force the band into complete surrender.
Facing starvation, the breakup of their community, and pressure from local settlers, a small number of the remaining members eventually surrendered their land. Surviving members of the Papaschase Band are working to reclaim their community and land in the area.
Indigenous language of origin: Cree
Name Meaning: Pays respect to the Thunderbird. This ward, from an aerial view, is shaped like a pihêsiw (thunderbird) and contains a ceremonial site.
The name pihêsiwin means Land of the Thunderbirds and was given to this ward because from an aerial view it is shaped like a pihêsiw (thunderbird).
The thunderbird appears in artwork throughout Indigenous history and has different significance between cultures.
In nêhiyawewin (Cree ontology), pihêsiw is a word of power and reverence. The thunderbird is a powerful spirit in the form of a bird. Lightning was believed to flash from its beak, and the beating of its wings was thought to represent the rolling of thunder. When the thunderbird strikes lightning (kakitoht), it re-energizes mother Earth.
The pihêsiw is the keeper of water. As water is crucial for life, the nourishment of our bodies, and the bringer of beauty, the thunderbird is viewed with extreme reverence.
Indigenous language of origin: Blackfoot
Name Meaning: Traditional lands where the Blackfoot Nation performed Buffalo Rounds. It is known that bison would migrate up to 300 kilometres north of the North Saskatchewan River to the safety of artesian wells to gather for the winter.
Pronunciation: E-pee-ko-ka-nee piu-tsi-ya
Bison were as vital to the Blackfoot people, as to all Indigenous peoples of the plains. The Blackfoot had established words and meanings for their migration patterns, which often coincided with the change of the seasons. In honour of the bison roaming north yearly, this ward was given the name Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi, which means the migration of the bison north for calving season in Blackfoot.
The Blackfoot (Nitsitapi) are often associated with Southern Alberta, but their traditional migration patterns often followed the bison up to the North Saskatchewan River. The Blackfoot nations are composed of four separate bands; the Siksika (Blackfoot), the Blood (Kainai), and the north Peigan (Aapátohsipiikani) and the south Peigan (Amskapi Piikani), which make up the Blackfoot Confederacy.
Indigenous language of origins: Mohawk (Michel First Nation)
Name Meaning: A tall, beautiful forest in the Mohawk language. Michel Karhiio was the Chief of the Michel Band that was enfranchised in 1958.
As the fur trade continued its expansion westward, Iroquois men became frequent traders in the NorthWest and Hudson’s Bay Companies. These traders married Cree and Métis women along these settlements, and a distinct Band known as Michel First Nation was formed. Karhiio is a word of significant importance to the Michel First Nation; its literal translation is “tall beautiful forest.”
The Michel First Nation first settled in the Lac Ste Anne area where a treaty was signed in 1855. The band was involuntarily enfranchised in 1958 and nearly all members of the Michel First Nation lost their Indian Status. In 1985, amendments were made to the Indian Act, restoring the status of 750 Michel Band members, but its members continue to fight for status land recognition.
Indigenous language of origin: Blackfoot
Name Meaning: Sspomitapi means star person and was given in honour of the Iron Creek Meteorite or the Manitou Stone.
Like other Indigenous nations, the Blackfoot have many stories that acknowledge the sky and the stars, often referred to as Sky Beings. In relation to the name of Ssopmitapi (Star Person), they were sent to earth by Napi (Creator) to help the Blackfoot people and the bison to have a reciprocal relationship.
Sspomitapi was given in honour of the Iron Creek Meteorite or the Manitou Stone once located near Viking, Alberta. The stone was shared by all tribes and was a place the Blackfoot would travel to and perform ceremony. The stone was taken to Ontario in the 1800s by missionaries, but was returned to Alberta in the 1970s and is now in the Royal Alberta Museum.
As well as Sspomitapi, the teachings of this fallen star have given gifts to the Blackfoot people that are still relevant.
The naming process began in ceremony and took guidance in ceremony as the group determined it was needed.
During the process of deliberating over names, the committee members reached out to Elders and other members of their communities for guidance and input. The historical and cultural meaning of names is very important to the committee members, as it is their desire that each name should reflect Indigenous connections to the land in each ward.