Those involved with the renaming of lakes by Unity hope the new name isn’t lost in translation.
A ceremony took place on Tuesday near Unity to honour the name change of nearby lakes, from Killsquaw Lakes to Kikiskisitotawânawak Iskwêwak Lakes.
The new name means “we honour the women” in Cree. Saskatoon lawyer Kellie Wuttunee said the new name was brought forward by elders and other council.
The bodies of water are located a short drive southeast of Unity.
The previous name of the lakes originates in oral narrative, Wuttunee said.
Cree women were getting water in the area of the lakes, Wuttunee said, and Blackfoot warriors killed the women. One woman survived and was able to tell others.
According to a Saskatoon Star-Phoenix article by Doug Cuthand, the groups were at war as buffalo were dwindling, and competition for land and hunting grounds increased.
Wuttunee said storyteller Antoine Lonesinger, connected to Sweetgrass and Red Pheasant First Nations, was interviewed regarding the name’s origin. Lonesinger’s English wasn’t very good, Wuttunee said, “and back then he wanted [to honour] the women that were killed” in the area where the lakes are.
“But the way the translation in the story came about was Killsquaw Lake,” Wuttunee said.
“We can’t have that anymore moving forward, especially in Canada.”
Wuttunee said she consulted with elders, community members and leadership regarding the name change, and she applied to change the lakes’ name through the heritage branch of the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport.
Wuttunee said she worked with Bruce Dawson of the ministry, which she said was a good experience.
The ceremony featured a feast, a jingle dancer, songs, and words from dignitaries including former Red Pheasant Cree Nation Chief Sheldon Wuttunee, Fred Sasakamoose, Turtleford MLA Larry Doke, Chief Sylvia Weenie and Unity Mayor Ben Weber.
In her comments to the public, Wuttunee connected the lakes’ name change to the recently released Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls report.
The former name of the lakes, Wuttunee said, “highlights what Canadian policy was up to now.”