Edmonton's new Indigenous ward names, explained

With the municipal election less than one month away, Edmontonians will see some familiar names and faces among the candidates, but the ward names and their boundaries are different this time around.

Approved by a council vote in 2020, the ward names are Indigenous and were carefully selected by a panel of 17 women.

The committee was made up of representatives from First Nations in Alberta Treaty areas numbered 6, 7 and 8, as well as members of the Métis and Inuit communities.

The women represented the Anishinaabe, Blackfoot, Cree, Dene, Inuit, Iroquois (Michel Band), Métis and Sioux nations.

Here are the new names they picked — what they mostly used to be, since the lines have moved — and what they represent:

NAKOTA ISGA (mostly was Ward 1)

Pronounced: NA-KOH-TAH EE-SKA

This name honours the Alexis Nakota Sioux people who settled in the area in 1880. Nakota Isga refers to the Siouan language family, according to the naming committee.

ANIRNIQ (mostly was Ward 2)

Pronounced: A-NIRK-NIK

Anirniq is an Inuktitut word meaning “Breath of Life.” It honours the Inuit people, many of whom were flown from the north to Edmonton in the 1950s and 60s for tuberculosis treatment. Anirniq was recommended because TB took the breath and spirit of many Indigenous people, the naming group said.

TASTAWIYINIWAK (mostly was Ward 3)

Pronounced: TASS-TAW-WIN-EE-WOK

This Cree word for “the in-between people” refers to the LGBTQ2S+ community. The Cree worldview recognized eight genders, and each person chose where they belonged and was free to move between roles as they wished, the committee said.

DENE (mostly was Ward 4)

Pronounced: DEH-NEH

Dene refers to various tribes and people that settled along the North Saskatchewan River and who live there now. The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the Cold Lake First Nations and the Dene Tha First Nations are Dene communities in Alberta.

O-DAY’MIN (mostly was Wards 6 & 2)

Pronounced: OH-DAY-MIN

An Anishinaabe word that means “strawberry” or “heart berry” referring to the centre of Edmonton. Anishinaabe people live across Canada, including in the O’Chiese First Nation near Rocky Mountain House.

METIS (mostly was Wards 7 & 8)

Pronounced: MAY-TEA

A Michif word, it was chosen because Metis people developed farms near the river in this area. The shape and position of the city lots still reflect that. Métis people originated in Canada in the 1700s as European men married Indigenous women, forming a distinct culture.

SIPIWIYINIWAK (mostly was Ward 5)

Pronounced: SEE-PEE-WIN-EE-WOK

This Cree name honours the “River Cree” people of the Enoch Cree Nation. More than 2,500 members of this nation still live just west of this ward.

PAPASTEW (mostly was Ward 10)

Pronounced: PAH-PAH-STAY-OH

Papastew, which translates to “large woodpecker,” honours the leader of the Papaschase Band. According to the city record, the federal government forced the band to surrender its land south of the North Saskatchewan River after 1880. Surviving members of the band are still working to reclaim their community and land.

PIHESIWIN (mostly was Ward 9)

Pronounced: PEE-HAY-SOO-WIN

A Cree word that means Land of The Thunderbirds, this name was chosen because the naming committee decided the aerial view of the ward is shaped like a thunderbird. Pihesiwin are culturally significant to many Indigenous cultures and represent “power and reverence” in Cree.

IPIIHKOOHKANIPIAOHTSI (mostly was Wards 9 & 10)

Pronounced: E-PEE-OK-KA-NEE-PIU-TSI-YA

A Blackfoot word that honours traditional grounds where bison were harvested. The Blackfoot (Nitsitapi) people primarily lived in southern Alberta, and many nations are still centred there, but they also migrated north to the Edmonton area as they followed bison.

Karhiio (mostly was Wards 10 & 11)

Pronounced: GAR-EE-HE-O

Named after a Mohawk word that means “a tall, beautiful forest,” this ward honours Michael Karhiio, Chief of the Michel Band. The Michel First Nation first settled in the Lac Ste Anne area but due to an “involuntary enfranchisement” in 1958, members continue to fight for land today, the committee said.

Sspomitapi (mostly was Wards 10 & 11)

Pronounced: SS-POH-ME-TAH-PEE

This Blackfoot word translates to “star person” and the name was given to the Iron Creek Meteorite or the Manitou Stone once located near Viking, Alta. Blackfoot people believe this fallen star was given by the Creator to help them have a “reciprocal relationship” with bison, the naming committee wrote.

For more on the warn names and the naming committee, visit the City of Edmonton website.