The Indigenous Names of Popular Outdoor Destinations Near Calgary

Learn the Indigenous names of some popular summertime destinations in Alberta.

Áísínai’pi – The Matapiiski (Hoodoo) Trail

Photograph by Davey Lieske, courtesy of Travel Alberta.

This trail in Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) reveals sandstone-carved petroglyphs and pictographs depicting 4,000 years of sacred history, spirits and journeys of Indigenous peoples who once lived there. Áísínai’pi is Niitsitapi for “where the writings are.”


Minihapa – Banff

Photograph by Chris Amat, courtesy of Banff & Lake Louise Tourism.

Many of the Indigenous names for Banff reference waterfalls: Minihapa in Stoney Nakoda translates to “waterfall place,” Nipika-pakitik in Nehiyaw (Cree) references Cascade Falls, and Nato-oh-siskoom in Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) means “holy springs.”


Minn-waki – Lake Minnewanka

Photograph by Paul Zizka, courtesy of Banff & Lake Louise Tourism.

For centuries, the Stoney Nakoda First Nations people have been connected to Minn-waki, “lake of the spirits,” hunting and camping along the shorelines of this large, glacial lake just outside of the Banff townsite. The Stoney Nakoda people respect as well as fear Minn-waki for the spirits that reside there.


Itsipa’ksikkihkinihkootsiyao’pi – Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Photograph courtesy of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is where Niitsitapi tribes like the Kainai (Blood) and Piikani (Peigan) would herd thousands of buffalo off a cliff to use for food, hides, bones, dung and other necessities. Itsipa’ksikkihkinihkootsiyao’pi translates to “Where he got his Head Smashed In.”

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This article appears in the June 2022 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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