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Pikuni Place Names

There are only four official place names in Alberta which refer to the Pikuni and they do so by the name "Peigan." Aside from the Peigan reserves the only two place names mentioning this tribe are Peigan Creek, which flows into Seven Persons Creek about fifty kilometres southwest of Medicine Hat, and Peigan, a former locality situated by the Peigan Reserve about fifty-two kilometres west of Lethbridge (DB).

If current locations of a tribe's reserve are any clue as to the origins of "Blackfoot" names in the area, then there are several geographical features whose names might be linked to the Pikuni. The Porcupine Hills, thirty kilometres south of Pincher Creek, are said to be from the Blackfoot name "Ky-es-kaghp-ogh-suy-iss" which corresponds to the English "porcupine." The name has been in use since at least 1865 and became official in 1965 (DB).

The Pikuni also have ties to the beginnings of Fort Macleod for which we are told the "Blackfoot" name is "stamix-otokan-okoway" which translates as "home of a head of a bull" (DB). According to Dempsey. Bull Head was the Peigan chief with whom Lt. Col. J. F. Macleod of the North-West Mounted Police negotiated the building of Fort Macleod. While the name suggests the Peigan chief, Dempsey says it actually refers to Macleod who was given the chiefs name (Dempsey, p.29).

We are told that Indianfarm Creek, which flows by the southwest corner of the Peigan Reserve, was named for a government demonstration farm established in 1879 and closed after a few years of unsuccessful farming (DB). This is almost certainly the farm described by Dempsey who quotes an Indian agent of the time as writing:

"Climatic conditions of wind, drought and frost prohibit successful farming on this reserve" (Dempsey, p. 30). Dempsey reports that the government was slow to change its policy requiring the local Indians to become soil farmers but the Pikuni eventually developed a cattle industry anyway (Dempsey, p. 30-31).


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