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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Geographical Names Program of Alberta

Castle Mountain in the Banff National Park. Most often, places or geographical features are given names for the purposes of orientation and reference. Geographical names often evoke great public interest and sense of ownership. The accuracy of all official maps of Alberta derives from the careful and precise information available in the Geographical Names Program.

Late in the nineteenth century, when surveys were conducted and boundaries were delineated, the need arose for an official body in Canada to deal with any nomenclature problems that might arise. The Geographic Board of Canada was established in December 1897. By the 1970s, responsibility for naming geographical features had been transferred to the provinces. A national body still exists, called the Geographical Names Board of Canada (GNBC). It co-ordinates and advises on national naming policies and initiatives. All provincial geographical names authorities base their principles and procedures regarding nomenclature on those set by the national board. Each province and territory has a representative on the GNBC.

The coordinator of the Alberta Geographical Names Program is responsible for: co-ordination of the Program; implementation of procedures; liaison with governmental organizations from the local to international level on toponymic matters; dissemination of geographical names information from popular to the scholarly and technical; maintenance of records; toponymic field and archival research; and other duties related to geographical names proposals.

The program benefits from the support of the Friends of Geographical Names of Alberta Society. Several Alberta place names publications can be ordered from the Friends.

Naming decisions are made by the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation Board of Directors with the concurrence of the Minister of Culture and Community Spirit as provided for in Section 18 of the Alberta Historical Resources Act.

For further information on the principles and procedures behind geographical naming in Alberta, please consult the Geographical Names Manual. If you are interested in submitting an application to name a feature in Alberta, please first consult the Manual and then use the application form.

Manual and Application Form:

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            For more on place names of Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.

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