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Tsuu T'ina Place Names

There appear to be no official Tsuu Tina-language place names in Alberta although there are several commemorative and unofficial names. The Tsuu Tina have been described as closely resembling the Blackfoot tribes (E.g. Dempsey, p. 37) and for that reason one suspects there may be some names referred to as simply having "Blackfoot" origins which may actually have Tsuu Tina origins. Then again, despite ties with the Blackfoot, the Tsuu Tina have maintained their own cultural identity and language and continue to be a distinct tribe.

Names which obviously refer to the Tsuu Tina include, Sarcee Butte, 25 kilometres west of Calgary and another Sarcee Butte twenty kilometres southeast of Three Hills. There is also a railway point within Calgary called Sarcee Junction. This name was established in 1959 (DB). Okotoks, ninety kilometres south of Calgary, is a town said to have a Blackfoot name but for which a Tsuu T'ina name is also known. The Blackfoot name means "big rock." or "crossing by the big rock." The Tsuu Tina name "Chachosika" is given to mean "Valley of the big rock." The Stoney also have a name for this place so it's difficult to know which name came first. However, the town's first official name was "Dewdney" after Edgar Dewdney. Indian Affairs Commissioner in 1879 (DB).

There are two lakes in central Alberta with names likely derived from a Native language but for which we are also given legends about how the Tsuu Tina became separated from their Dunne-za relatives further north. Buffalo Lake, thirty kilometres northwest of Stettler, may have been named after the Cree word "mustus," meaning buffalo. However, a legend suggests the lake was named by the Tsuu T'ina when they became separated from their Dunne-za cousins. The legend says that Tsuu T'ina hunters killed a buffalo here one winter and saw its carcass transformed into the shape of a lake. Returning home the hunters crossed the frozen lake finding buffalo horns sticking out of the ice. When someone tried to pull the horns away the ice split open drowning many people. The survivors yet to have crossed the lake became Dunne-za and Chipewyan, while those who had crossed the lake already became Tsuu Tina, says the legend (DB).7

Haunted Lakes, eight kilometres southwest of Buffalo Lake, has a similar legend attached to it This one says a giant elk frozen in the ice was upset when someone mistook his antlers for wood and tried to pull them from the ice. In anger he rose out of the lake splitting the ice and drowning many people. Those who survived were split into two tribes, says the legend (DB).8

Notes

7.W.F. Butler in "The Wild North Land" refers to a similar legend describing Buffalo Lake as the source of the buffalo which roamed the prairies (MacGregor, p. 100).Butler doesn't seem to attribute the myth to anyone in particular except the generic "Red Man."

8.MacGregor gives another account of the Beaver-Sarcee split. He reports that there was once a dispute between two Beaver factions over a dog that was killed. It flared into a battle that left 80 dead. A subsequent tribal council decreed that 60 people, friends of the chief who killed the dog, should go into exile. They became the Sarcee (MacGregor (2), p.30).


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