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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Metis Place Names

Metis place names have been defined as such because they commemorate a Metis person or because Metis persons named them. Some of the commemorative Metis place names in Alberta include Gladu Lake, thirty-one kilometres northwest of Edmonton, after a family who arrived from Minnesota via Winnipeg in the 1850s (DB); Brunos Hill, one kilometre north of Bashaw, said to be named after a Metis family there which included two brothers with the nicknames "teapot" and "coffeepot" (DB). Pats Creek. which flows through the town of Peace River and then into the river itself, was named for Patrick Wesley a Metis who donated his land so an Anglican church could be built in Peace River in 1911 (DB). Moonshine Lake, thirty kilometres south of Spirit River, is commemorative in a certain sense in that it recalls the activities of Marcel Cardinal a Metis who manufactured "home brew" there between 1910 and 1920 (DB).

MacGregor notes many Metis who had come west became well-known for their work freighting goods over long distances. Among them were names such as Whitford, Mackenzie and Pruden (MacGregor, p. 60). Two of these names show up in Alberta's official place names. Pruden Lake, sixteen kilometres south of Lac La Biche, is named for Pat Pruden, a Metis said to have been involved in the 1885 Riel Rebellion (DB). There is also a hamlet called Whitford, thirty-two kilometres southeast of Smoky Lake. A post master at the hamlet wrote once that there are many half-breeds here, two-thirds of them named Whitford (DB).

Cypress Hills is connected to the Red River Metis. We are told they referred to jack pines in that region as "le cypre," (i.e. "cypress"). As a result, and because they mistook lodgepole pines for jackpines, the name "Montagnes des Cypres" was used at the new location in southern Alberta. The name has since been anglicized to "Cypress Hills" (DB).

It should be noted this location is of importance to Natives as well who have at least three names for it. The Cree name we area told is "mi-na-ti-kak'' or "neatikak" which means "beautiful highlands"; The Stoney name is "pa-ha-toonga" said to mean "thunder building hill"; And the Blackfoot name "aiekunekwe" is said to mean "the hills of whispering pines."

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