We would like to respectfully acknowledge that Amiskwaciywâskahikan (Edmonton), meaning Beaver Hill House, is located on Treaty 6 territory. We are grateful to be on Cree, Dene, Saulteaux, Métis, Tsuu T’ina, Blackfoot, and Nakota Sioux territory, specifically the ancestral space of the Papaschase Cree.
Further, we know that Indigenous people are the original inhabitants of the land in what is now referred to as Canada, and we further recognize that it is our responsibility to work towards reconciliation not only as political representatives and participants, but fundamentally as settlers on this territory. As such, our campaign strives towards the decolonization of Indigenous knowledge and traditions.
We wanted to give a bit of background into the new ward name, and why it’s important that we use it moving forward.
In the words of Nehiyaw lawyer Sharon Venne, reconciliation work requires understanding of Canada-Indigenous relations where “our responsibilities and obligations as settlers cannot be understood when Indigenous knowledge and perspective is denied.”
Our campaign is committed to the ongoing learning process of understanding our role as settlers, advocates, and political representatives, and recognizes that our presence on Treaty 6 territory comes with honouring the agreements made through treaty that allow us to be on this land.
What is “Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi?”
Understanding the history of our ward name gives context within which we have insight into the importance of this territory, and the necessity of honouring its history.
Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi is the name given to Ward 10 in the Indigenous language of origin of the Blackfoot Nation. Its meaning is derived from the traditional territory where the Blackfoot Nation engaged in Buffalo Rounds. Here, bison would migrate up to 300km north of the North Saskatchewan River in search of artesian wells to prepare for the winter season.
Who are “Iyiniw iskwewak wihtwawin?”
Prior to forming the Indigenous Ward Naming Knowledge Committee, City Council was first approached by Indigenous Elders, language and knowledge keepers, and community members to rename Edmonton’s wards with Indigenous names. On June 16, 2020, the Administration and Naming Committee of Council began seeking Indigenous names for the wards. The naming process was led by Iyiniw-iskwewak-wihtwawin, a committee of Indigenous matriarchs who gifted traditional names to the Council's naming committee to properly honour the history of sacred land in our city.
The committee is constituted of 17 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women from Treaty No. 6, 7, and 8 representing the Anishinaabe, Blackfoot, Cree, Dene, Inuit, Iroquois (Michel Band), Métis, and Sioux Indigenous nations. Reclaiming and centering traditional Indigenous matriarchal community roles was at the centre of City Council’s decision to choose Iyiniw-iskwewak-wihtwawin to lead the initiative as part of a greater pursuit towards reconciliation.
Why we use Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi
It is through the law and labour of Indigenous peoples that the presence of non-Indigenous communities on this land today is made possible. Acknowledging, understanding, and committing ourselves to learning further about our role as settlers on this territory starts by codifying Indigenous knowledge and cultural practices, including naming systems. Part of our responsibility on this land is learning Indigenous knowledge systems, through which we can understand how we can live together as settlers and Indigenous communities in peaceful coexistence.
Our campaign is committed to respecting Indigenous knowledge and perspective, and it is extremely important to us that we reflect both the values of our campaign and our individual responsibilities of committing to using Indigenous land names. We understand that in order to properly orient ourselves towards decolonization, using the traditional name of this territory is a crucial first step of many in respecting the history of, and centering Indigenous communities as the original inhabitants and caretakers of this land.
Why we need to get used to saying it
It is incredibly important that we all prioritize learning more about the Indigenous history of the land we live on. Using the Indigenous ward names is a small, initial step towards preserving the cultural history of this territory, and a way to acknowledge the rich history and presence of Indigenous peoples since time immemorial on this land despite dispossession and displacement on their own territory.
While it does not require much work on our part, implementing Indigenous naming systems as part of our everyday vocabulary is a way to centre Indigenous knowledge, and is part of honouring the responsibilities we hold as settlers.
Bylaw 19366, Amendment to Bylaw 15142 City of Edmonton Ward Boundaries and Council Composition passed its third reading at City Council on December 7, 2020. This means the changes to ward boundaries and names will officially come into effect on the day of the next Edmonton municipal election, October 18, 2021. You can learn more about the new ward boundaries here.
Venne, S. (1997). Understanding Treaty 6: An Indigenous Perspective. In M, Asch (Ed.) Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in Canada: Essays on Law, Equity, and Respect for Difference (173-207). Vancouver, Canada: UBC Press.