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Wetaskiwin, Settlement

The city of Wetaskiwin got its name from the aboriginal name "Wetaskiwin Spatinow" which means in the Cree language "the place where peace was made". Like many places in Canada, Wetaskiwin owes its name to Aboriginal folklore. The Red Deer River was the dividing line between the Blackfoot in the south and the Cree in the north. Problems occurred when the Blackfoot crossed the river to hunt buffalo in Cree territory. One version of the legend tells of a meeting in 1860 between the Crees, led by Chief Broken Arm, and a group of Blackfoot tribesmen who were travelling to Fort Edmonton. This event is said to have been used by the Cree chief to forgive a Blackfoot warrior who had earlier killed his son.

Another version tells of a fight between two young chiefs from the Cree and Blackfoot nations. Tired from the fight, they proceeded to sit down and rest. The young Blackfoot chief pulled out his pipe to smoke. When the Cree warrior saw this, he too decided to do the same thing but he found his pipe was broken in three pieces. The Blackfoot chief then offered the Cree chief a smoke from his pipe. The Cree chief accepted this offer and both of them immediately realized that to use another's pipe was the same as smoking the Peace Pipe. When they returned to their camps, they told the old chieftains what had happened and decided that it was a sign from the Great Manitou. The aboriginals regarded it as a sign from the Great Spirit and gathered to smoke the Peace Pipe on the spot where the fight had occurred.

Most of the first white people in the area were settlers or government agents. Many of these early settlers were from Scandinavia, others came from the United States, Russia, England, Germany and other European countries. They came to the area because of the cheap farmland. Missionaries arrived beginning in May 1881. The name of Wetaskiwin was adopted by the suggestion of Father Albert Lacombe in 1891.

In 1900 Wetaskiwin officially became a village and in 1902 a town. The area soon developed and in 1904 a branch line of the Canadian Pacific Railway between Wetaskiwin and Winnipeg was constructed to serve the needs of the new settlers east of the city. Wetaskiwin became incorporated as a city in 1906. It was known for many years as the smallest city in the British Empire.

Main street of Wetaskiwin

Main street of Wetaskiwin

Cree Dance

Cree Dance