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Kainah Place Names

There are no official place names that, strictly speaking, incorporate the Kainah language although five names seem to refer directly to the Blood Indians. Two other names commemorates a Kainah chief. There are references to the Kainah in the origin summaries of some other names. As a result, it seems the Kainah were sometimes talked about but rarely involved in the official naming process.

There are four official names, including the Blood Reserve, which commemorate the tribe. For example, we are told that Blood Indian Creek, which flows into the Red Deer River north of Medicine Hat, is named after this tribe and also that the creek may have been named for an event which led to the Kainah acquiring the name "Blood Indians." The story suggests the Kainah became a separate tribe from the Blackfoot after they attacked and killed a number of people in a Kootenay encampment at this creek. The act was said to be against the advice of the Blackfoot and a separation between the two peoples occurred (DB). There is also a Blood Indian Creek Reservoir which takes its name from the creek (DB).

The former locality of Mekastoe remains on the books as an official name and refers to a Kainah chief who signed Treaty Seven. His body is said to be buried near Standoff along the Fort Macleod-Cardston road. Further, we are told that the former locality of Mekastoe, about forty-five kilometres west of Lethbridge, was named after Chief Red Crow and that Mekastoe was his Kainah name (DB).

Other official place names which may not have originated with the Kainah have origin summaries that refer to the Kainah. It seems to be generally accepted that the hamlet of Seven Persons, twenty kilometres southwest of Medicine Hat, was named for the bodies of seven people found at a nearby creek. However, there are competing stories about how the bodies got there. We are told that, according to Kainah tradition, Chief Calf-shirt led a war party that killed seven Cree at the creek and took their medicine pipes (DB).

There are five official place names which we are told have unofficial Kainah names unrelated to the official names. Milk River, which flows just north of the United States border, is one of these. We are told the Kainah name for the river is "Kenushsisuht" which means "little river" (DB).

As mentioned above, the lack of official Kainah names need not be taken as a true reflection of the Kainah's significance regarding the origins of Alberta place names. Among the ninety-one names listed as being of Blackfoot origin, one would expect that some actually originated with the Kainah.

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