Canada’s Saskatchewan province has changed the name of a group of lakes, from Killsquaw Lake to a name which honors Indigenous women - Kikiskitotawânawak Iskêwak, which is Cree for “we honor the women.”
"This change will recognize and honor the Cree women who lost their lives in this area in the 19th century with a name that better reflects the language and culture of those being commemorated," Parks Minister Gene Makowsky said.
The new name commemorates Cree women who lost their lives in the 19th century.
"It's an event today that I think we can be proud of in hopes of reclaiming our territories and our place names as Indigenous people," Sheldon Wuttunee, former chief of Red Pheasant First Nation, who assisted with the renaming project said Tuesday.
Sheldon theorized that there was likely a miscommunication between the word iskwew, which means woman in Cree, and squaw, a derogatory term for Indigenous women. "The word squaw is a word that our women and our people find offensive and derogatory," Sheldon said.
A lawyer from Red Pheasant First Nation, Kellie Wuttunee, added in a release that "words are powerful. Names are powerful. They inform our identity,” lauding the government’s decision to change the name of the lakes.
"With actions like this, we are reminding each other and telling the world that we can learn from our mistakes and move forward together."
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron said: “Changing the name of this lake today shows a great respect and step forward towards healing the racial divide in this province while honoring the First Nations women we've lost, our lands and waters and our Cree language."
Over a year ago, Kellie petitioned the Saskatchewan Government for a name-change, explaining that the former name undermined the pride and self-esteem of Indigenous peoples.
A formal naming ceremony is scheduled for spring 2019.