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Stoney Place Names

Next to Cree, Stoney names are the most common among official place names of native origin in Alberta. There are over 128 names likely of Stoney origin. There are sixty-five names which either commemorate the tribe or use the Stoney language.

Names said to use the Stoney language include Chetang Ridge and Chusina Ridge, both about seventy kilometres northwest of Jasper, which were named by Charles Walcott Jr. whose father accompanied the Smithsonian expedition to Mount Robson. We are told "Chetang" is the Stoney word for "hawk" while "Chusina'' is the Stoney word for "small" (DB).

Kahwin is a former locality seventeen kilometres southeast of Smoky Lake. The name is said to be the Sioux word for "no" reflecting local opinion when the local post office was almost given a Russian name, "Ostasik." in 1912. The post office closed in 1969 (DB).

Sunwapta Falls, fifty kilometres southeast of Jasper, was named after a Stoney word signifying "turbulent river." Likewise Sunwapta Creek and Pass (DB). We are told that Lake Minnewanka, near Banff, employs the Stoney word meaning "water spirit." The feature was named in 1888. Previous names include "Long Lake," "Pechee Lake," and "Devil's Lake" (DB).

There are seven names which seem to commemorate either the Stoney or Assiniboin. They include Assiniboine Pass, about 100 kilometres west of Calgary, and Assiniboine Mountain (DB). Stony Plain just west of Edmonton may have taken its name from Stoney Indians who camped in the vicinity. However, the Palliser expedition of 1885 described the terrain as being rocky and deserving of the name (DB).

There are sixteen other official names which commemorate Stoney people or events. We are told Benjamin Creek, which flows fifty-five kilometres northwest of Cochrane, is named for Jonas Benjamin who was a Stoney chief in the early 1900s (DB). Chaba Peak, eighty kilometres southeast of Jasper on the provincial boundary, and Chaba River, which flows into the Athabasca, are said to be named after a Stoney hunter Job Beaver. "Chaba" is the Stoney word for Beaver (DB). Job Creek, ninety kilometres southeast of Jasper, is also said to be named for the same person (DB).

Running Rain Lake is named for a Stoney chief born at Lundbreck in the Porcupine Hills in 1873. Running Rain lived to be a councilor in the Chiniki band and a chief in the Wesley band before dying in 1983. Also known as Tom Kaquitts, he was an honorary chief at the 100th anniversary of Treaty Seven in 1977. The lake is fifty kilometres southwest of Turner Valley (DB).

Cheneka, a former locality west of Cochrane, was named for the Stoney chief John Chiniki (DB). Various spellings of his name show up in other place names. Lake Chinika, fifty kilometres west of Calgary, and the nearby Chinika Creek, are also named for the same chief (DB).

Other geographical features named for Stoney chiefs who signed Treaty Seven include Jacob Creek, forty-five kilometres northwest of Calgary, named after, either Jacob Bearspaw or Jacob Goodstoney (DB), and James River and James Pass named for James Dickson (DB).

The circumstances behind the naming of Abraham Lake were unusual. Silas Abraham (also known as Small Person) was a Stoney hunter, guide, and trapper who broke soil in the area c.1890. Construction of the Bighorn Dam flooded his homestead and the family burial ground. The name of the resulting lake was chosen in a contest by Alberta students between Grades One and Nine. Abraham was instrumental in the formation of the Stoney reserve there. He died probably in 1965 (DB). Abraham Flats was also named for the place where Abraham built his cabin.

Other Stoney place names, as many as sixty-three, appear to be English translations of the Stoney original. Pipestone River near Lake Louise derives its name from the Stoney word "pa-hooh-to-hi-agoo-pi-wap-ta" which refers to a grey-blue argillite found in the river which was used to make pipes. Pipestone Pass and Pipestone Mountain take their name from the river (DB). Various Pipestone Creeks around the province (near Wetaskiwin. Wembley and Grande Prairie) are unconnected with Pipestone River but were named for similar reasons (DB).


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