Looking at a map of Alberta today, one will come across many interesting
place names, many of which are a reflection of the diverse history and
heritage of the peoples who have come to make Alberta home. Many of the province's earliest place names draw on Aboriginal sources.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, it was typical of many First Nations
peoples to give names to places with which they had a strong spiritual connection.
For the most part these names described the natural features of the land, or commemorated significant historical events,
passed from one generation to the next. Many of these place
names remain in existence today and here we would like to share some of these with you.
the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains, not far from
present-day Fort Macleod, you will find the world's oldest, largest and best
preserved buffalo jump known to exist. From the beginnings
of the site nearly 6000 years ago to the present-day interpretive
Buffalo Jump is not only a site about the past of the Blackfoot, but about its present and future cultural
revitalization and renewal.
Another place of significance, particularly to the Blackfoot
peoples, is Medicine Hat in the southeastern corner of the
province. The name of the city itself is a translation of the Blackfoot word,
"saamis", which roughly translated means "headdress of a medicine man."
While there are many explanations as to the significance of this
particular name, one of the more interesting explanations for the
naming of Medicine Hat, would have us believe that the name
actually describes a fight between the Blackfoot and their
historical adversaries, the Cree. During this fabled fight, a Cree
medicine man lost his plumed hat in the river and, since that
battle, the Blackfoot have referred to the place as "Medicine
Hat" in honour of that fight.
Relations between Canada's museums and its First Nations have
been fraught with challenges. In the early 1990s, the Glenbow
Museum, Art Gallery, Library and Archives in Calgary, Alberta adopted a policy to "involve First
Nations in the collecting, planning, research, implementation,
presentation, and maintenance of all exhibits, programs, and
projects that include First Nations culture." The recently completed Nitsitapiisinni "Our way of life"
exhibit is one of the important results of this collaboration
between museums and the Blackfoot peoples. The exhibit is
important not only as a place of cultural memory and tradition for
the community, but reflects the very contemporary and urban
presence of the Blackfoot people in Calgary.
This digital collection was
produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital
Collections initiative, Industry Canada.