List of place names in Canada of Indigenous origin

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This list of place names in Canada of Indigenous origin contains Canadian places whose names originate from the words of the First Nations, Métis, or Inuit, collectively referred to as Indigenous peoples. When possible the original word or phrase used by Indigenous peoples is included, along with its generally believed meaning. Names listed are only those used in English or French, as many places have alternate names in the local native languages, e.g. Alkali Lake, British Columbia is Esket in the Shuswap language; Lytton, British Columbia is Camchin in the Thompson language (often used in English however, as Kumsheen).


The name Canada comes from the word meaning "village" or "settlement" in the Saint-Lawrence Iroquoian[1] language spoken by the inhabitants of Stadacona and the neighbouring region near present-day Quebec City in the 16th century.[2] Another contemporary meaning was "land."[3] Jacques Cartier was first to use the word "Canada" to refer not only to the village of Stadacona, but also to the neighbouring region and to the Saint-Lawrence River.

In other Iroquoian languages, the words for "town" or "village" are similar: the Mohawk use kaná:ta’,[4][5] the Seneca iennekanandaa, and the Onondaga use ganataje.[6]

Provinces and territories[edit]

Provinces and territories whose official names are aboriginal in origin are Yukon, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nunavut.

By province and territory[edit]


  • Amisk: "Beaver" in Cree.
  • Athabasca River, Lake Athabasca, Athabasca Falls, Mount Athabasca, Athabasca: "Where there are reeds" in Cree
  • Bow River English translation of Blackfoot name for the river - Makhabn, "river where bow reeds grow" (Blackfoot), reeds there were good for making bows with which to shoot arrows.
  • Chipewyan: "duck lake" [9]
  • Crowfoot Trail (Calgary)
  • Goosequill Lake translation of Cree word Manikwanan for the lake [10]
  • Grand Forks: translation of Blackfoot name for the place
  • Grand Prairie: translation of Cree name "Big Prairie"
  • Ipiatik Lake [11]
  • Kakisa River [12]
  • Kakwa River [12]
  • Kananaskis
  • Kapasiwin [13]
  • Kapawe'no First Nation [13]
  • Kimiwan: Cree word for rainy
  • Lake Minnewanka: ""Water of the Spirits" in Sioux (Nakoda/Stoney language)
  • Makaoo Indian Reserve. Cree name of early leader of the Band [14]
  • Manawan Lake Cree for egg-gathering place [14]
  • Marie Lake poor translation of the Cree word for the place methai, pronounced merai, which translates as a fish.[14]
  • Maskekosikh Trail (formerly 23rd Avenue between 215th Street and Anthony Henday Drive) Road of the "people of the land of medicine" in Cree[15]
  • Maskwa Creek near Wetaskiwin Cree word for black bear is muskwa
  • Matchayaw Lake Cree for bad spirit. Palliser translated the name as Little Manitoo in 1865.[14]
  • Medicine Hat: Translation of the Blackfoot word saamis, meaning "headdress of a medicine man".
  • Meeting Creek. English translation of the Cree name nukh-kwa-ta-to, which referenced the frequent meeting between the Cree and Blackfoot there.[14]
  • Metiskow Cree for many trees [16]
  • Mewassin Native word for good [14]
  • Michichi: Cree for hand (Nearby Hand Hills has same source)
  • Mitsue Creek [17]
  • Mokowan Ridge [18]
  • Minaik: Cree (also Nakoda) "Minahik" for evergreen (pine or tamarack)
  • Nikanassin Range: "First range" in Cree
  • Okotoks: "Big Rock" in Blackfoot
  • Oldman River. The Piikani Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy named the river after their traditional sacred ground at its headwaters, said to the "Old Man's Playing Ground," sacred ground of Napi, the Old Man, the Great Creator.[19]
  • Papaschase Industrial Park (Edmonton)
  • Ponoka: "Black Elk" in Blackfoot
  • Sakaw (neighbourhood in southside Edmonton)
  • Saskatchewan River, North and South Saskatchewan River
  • Shaganappi Trail (Calgary). Shaganappi were rawhide strips. Used to repair a myriad of objects, it was the duct tape of its time.
  • Skyrattler (neighbourhood in southside Edmonton)
  • Slave Lake: "Slave" was a mis-translation of the Cree word for foreigner to describe the Athabaskan people living there. (see Slave River, NWT below)
  • Smoky Lake: This town's name comes from the Cree name for the almost-now-disappeared lake nearby. Wood Cree named it Smoking Lake for either the large number of campfires around it often, or the unusually large quantities of mist that came off it at sunset.
  • Tipaskan (neighbourhood in southside Edmonton)
  • Valley of Ten Peaks includes these four peaks named after the numerals of the Stoney language:

Mount Tonsa (no. four); Mount Tuzo (no. 7); Neptuak Mountain (no. 9) and Wenkchemna Peak (no. 10).

  • Wabasca: from wapuskau, "grassy narrows" in Cree language
  • Wapiti River: from the Cree word for "elk", waapiti (literally "white rump").
  • Waputik Range: Waputik means "white goat" in Stoney
  • Waskatenau village and creek. pronounced with silent "k." In 1880s area was home to the Wah-Sat-Now (Cree) band, which later moved to the Saddle Lake reserve.[20] Cree term for "opening in the banks", in reference to the clef in the nearby ridge through which the Waskatenau Creek flows.[21]
  • Wetaskiwin: "Place of peace" or "hill of peace" in Cree

British Columbia[edit]

For the scores of BC placenames from the Chinook Jargon, see List of Chinook Jargon placenames.











New Brunswick[edit]

Newfoundland and Labrador[edit]

  1. it may be a corruption of the name Maarcoux, after Pierre Marcoux, a French trader in Labrador in the late 18th century [4]; or
  2. from the Inuktitut maggok, "two"; thus Makkovik would mean "two places". Around Makkovik are two inlets, Makkovik Bay and Makkovik harbour, and two main brooks floating into the two inlets. "Two Buchten Machovik", meaning "two bays Makkovik", is mentioned in a 1775 writing by the German Moravian missionary Johann Ludwig Beck.[5]

Nova Scotia[edit]

Northwest Territories[edit]






See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marc Lescarbot in his publication in French 1610 used the term "caribou." Silas Tertius Rand included the term Kaleboo in his Mi'kmaq-English dictionary in 1888.


  1. ^ Bruce G. Trigger and James F. Pendergast. (1978), "Saint-Lawrence Iroquoians", in Handbook of North American Indians. Volume 15. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, pp. 357–361
  2. ^ Jacques Cartier. (1545).Relation originale de Jacques Cartier. Paris, Tross, 1863 edition, page 48.
  3. ^ Alan Rayburn. (2001). Naming Canada: stories about Canadian place names, 2nd ed. (ISBN 0-8020-8293-9) University of Toronto Press: Toronto; p. 13.
  4. ^ Mithun, Marianne (1999). The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  5. ^ Bright (2004:78)
  6. ^ Rayburn, op. cit, p. 14.
  7. ^ Afable, Patricia O. and Madison S. Beeler (1996). "Place Names". In "Languages", ed. Ives Goddard. Vol. 17 of Handbook of North American Indians, ed. William C. Sturtevant. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, pg. 191
  8. ^ Bright (2004:583)
  9. ^ Dempsey, 1969
  10. ^ Holmgren and Holmgren, 1972
  11. ^ Aubrey, p.159
  12. ^ a b Aubrey, p.172
  13. ^ a b Aubrey, p.173
  14. ^ a b c d e f Harrison, Place Names of Alberta, volume 3
  15. ^ "Renamed Maskekosikh Trail part of City's ongoing reconciliation committment," CBC News, Feb. 12, 2016
  16. ^ Aubrey, p.210
  17. ^ Aubrey, p.215
  18. ^ Aubrey, p.217
  19. ^ "Oldman River," Historica Canada website
  20. ^ Edmonton Bulletin, Jan. 3, 1881; April 18, 1885; Sept. 16, 1897
  21. ^ Harrison, Volume 3
  22. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary, 'caribou'
  23. ^ Kavanagh, Maureen, ed. (2005) [1985], "Hinterland Who's Who", Canadian Wildlife Service/EC, ISBN 0-662-39659-6, archived from the original on 24 December 2013, retrieved 21 December 2013
  24. ^ BC Names entry "Gataga Mountain"
  25. ^ "Klemtu". BC Geographical Names.
  26. ^ "Kwadacha River". BC Geographical Names.
  27. ^ "Caribou Hide (community)". BC Geographical Names.
  28. ^ "Nadina River". BC Geographical Names.
  29. ^ "Nakusp (village)". BC Geographical Names.
  30. ^ "Sicamous (district municipality)". BC Geographical Names.
  31. ^ "Toodoggone River". BC Geographical Names.
  32. ^ "Government of Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada – New Brunswick". Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  33. ^ "Central Quebec School Board – Places & Origin of Names". Archived from the original on 25 October 2008. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  34. ^
  35. ^ Paskal, Cleo (10 June 2006). "The Toronto Star – Harbouring a host of delights". Toronto Star. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  36. ^ "Mi'kmaq – Words, Pronunciation – Jipugtug (with audio clips)". Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  37. ^ " – Halifax's History – Jipugtug (or Chebucto)". Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 20 April 2009.
  38. ^ " – Transportation – Public Works – New highway named Cobequid Pass". Government of Nova Scotia. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  39. ^ "Acadian-Cajun, Genealogy & History – Exile Destination – Cobequid". Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  40. ^ " – History of Pictou – By historian Ron Wallis". Archived from the original on 19 March 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  41. ^ "Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, County place names". Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  42. ^ " – Local Histories – Pugwash". Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  43. ^ "Sympatico, MSN Travel – Nova Scotia's Northern Shore, Pugwash". Archived from the original on 18 April 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  44. ^ "Museum, Government of Nova Scotia – 511 Windsor Lowlands". Archived from the original on 22 May 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
  45. ^ Berger, Jonathan; Terry, Thomas (2007). Canoe Atlas of the Little North. Erin, Ont.: Boston Mills Press. pp. 109, 111, 115. ISBN 978-1-55046-496-2. OCLC 78038334. Also OCLC 174417835
  46. ^ a b c d e Freelang Ojibwe Dictionary
  47. ^ Rayburn, Alan, Place Names of Ontario, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997, p. 258.
  48. ^ Bright (2004:508–9)

Further reading[edit]