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Derogatory Saskatchewan lake renamed to honour fallen Cree women

A group of small lakes has a new name to honour Indigenous culture and history in Saskatchewan.

Kikiskitotawânawak Iskêwak, the new name for Killsquaw Lake near Unity, Sask., translates to “we remember the women” or “we honour the women.”

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Kellie Wuttunee, a lawyer from Red Pheasant First Nation, applied for the change under The Heritage Property Act.

She said Killsquaw was harmful and undermined the pride and self-esteem of Indigenous people.

“With actions like this, we are reminding each other and telling the world that we can learn from our mistakes and move forward together,” Wuttunee said Tuesday in a press release.

“To properly respect and honour Indigenous women, we should no longer have denigrating place names in Saskatchewan or Canada.”

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) applauded the efforts that successfully petitioned the Saskatchewan government to approve the new name.

“Changing the name of this lake today (Nov. 20) shows a great respect and step forward towards healing the racial divide in this province, while honouring the First Nations women we’ve lost, our lands and waters and our Cree language,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said in a press release.

The new name honours Cree women who lost their lives near the town in the 19th century with the language and culture of those being commemorated.

“We are proud of the new name and understand the intent of the original name was to honour a group of Cree women who lost their lives at the lake, however, it’s unfortunate that it has taken a century from the time it came to be to finally reflect First Nations women in less derogatory way,” FSIN vice-chief Heather Bear said in a press release.

A formal naming ceremony is expected to take place in spring 2019.

Unity is roughly 175 kilometres west of Saskatoon.

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