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No. 91: Naming Crowsnest Pass

Early immigrants to Alberta mined the Crowsnest region for coal. But the name attached to this pass through the Rocky Mountains was used long before their arrival.

As historian Merrily Aubrey explains, the name Crowsnest was first recorded in English in 1858, that's when the Palliser Expedition explored southern Alberta.

Captain Blackeston, in December of 1858, noted the existence of two other passes across his portion of the mountains in the southwestern portion of the province.

And they were [referred to as] the Crow Nest and the Flathead Passes, which then followed up the Crow Nest River, as he called it.

Earlier in that year, the name had been recorded as Lodge des Corbeau. It means Raven Home, or Crow Home.

One story about the origin of the name Crowsnest refers to a battle between the Blackfoot and the Crow. The Crow people came from Montana and the Dakotas.

In 1928, Maclean's magazine reported that in 1852 or 54, a party of Blackfoot managed to cut off a group of raiding Crow who had tried to escape westward through the pass. Well, they were allegedly killed at the base of the mountain, which was afterward called "Crows Nest," in memory of the occasion.

While there may be some truth in the story, historian Merrily Aubrey believes its more likely the name simply refers to nesting of crows or ravens at the base of the Crowsnest peak.

The name was originally recorded in French. "Lodge des Corbeau" - this could mean that the name was either given by the traders passing through, or by the aboriginal people in the area, to the French speaking fur traders, which subsequently translated into the French, and from the French it came into the English. It became Crows Nest, or Crow Nest, which is the birds' home, not the place where the Crow were killed, or the final resting place of the Crow people.

Now, since the true home of the Crow people was further south and east, the use of the word "Lodge" would have been incorrect.

On the other hand, the name may have had nothing to do with crows, but rather the shape of the mountain itself.

Well, you know, it's a flat top mountain, and, so, on the crowsnest of a ship, if you were to climb up, it's sort of a flat platform on a ship and it would be a good thing to see from.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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