How were communities, lakes and rivers in Saskatchewan named?



The town is situated on the narrows between Churchill Lake and Little Peter Pond Lake ( Little Buffalo Lake). The Plains Indians used to drive the bison (buffalo) to the narrows and kill them. Numerous buffalo skulls, arrowheads and spearheads have been found in the area.


This small lake in south central Saskatchewan is located in the area where the Plains Indians would entrap buffalo in a buffalo pound (corral).


This large lake is located north east of Prince Albert. The name originated with a Cree legend about a mysterious flickering light that sometimes appeared on the surface of the lake.


When the first homesteaders arrived, they found wild carrots growing along the river.


The area has three large hills or buttes. The community is located near the middle (central) butte.


Claybank is a small community in southern Saskatchewan at the foot of the Dirt Hills. The community takes its name from the rich clay deposits found in the area. The Claybank Brick Plant (which closed in 1989) is a National Historic Site.


Cypress Hills located in southwestern Saskatchewan reach a high point of 1392 metres.The hills get their name from the presence of lodgepole pine trees, which were called cyprès in Canadian French.


The village of Elbow got its name from the bend in the South Saskatchewan River. The bend looked like a bent arm or elbow.


The hills south of the current town site were used as burial grounds by the local First Nations. They called the burial ground Many Skeletons Hills or Many Skulls Hills. The new settlers referred to the burial grounds as Indian Head Hills.


The Woods Cree word "aðapaskaw" referred to the place where there are plants one after another. "Athapison" in the Southern Cree tongue referred to lakes with willows and grass growing about them.


The Plains Indians called it the "lake of good spirit" . They believed that the water could cure people. The town of Watrous is just south of the lake. Watrous became a resort with the Manitou Springs Mineral Spa ( largest indoor mineral pool in Canada )



The name Moose Jaw comes from a Cree name "moscâstani-sîpiy" meaning "a warm place by the river". Another explanation is that is was named after the local creek, which looked like the outline of a moose’s jawbone .


When the Canadian Pacific Railway was going through the farming community one of the local settlers suggested the name in honour of her favorite composer. Streets in the small town have also been named for composers.


the name came from a combination of the names of two officials of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The names of Naismith and Camerson were combined to form "Nai-cam". Shortly after the arrival of the CPR in 1921, the settlement was incorporated as a village.


Nipawin may have come from the word "Nipowewin" which meant "standing place" or "waiting place". Near the town there are high banks along the Saskatchewan River where people would stand to watch for people coming down the river in canoes or walking along the side of the river.

bow and arrow


This lake got its name from a Cree legend. A hunting party feared an attack by Blackfoot warriors. The elderly Cree women offered to keep the fires burning at the camp near the lake and to beat the tom toms through the night, while the rest of their people escaped in the darkness. The next morning when the Blackfoot party attacked the camp, they found only the old women and killed them. It is said that on windy nights you can still hear the old women's cries. Old Wives Lake is located 30 km. southwest of Moose Jaw.


The origin of the community name is from the flat-topped hill (the Butte) that served as a lookout for hunting buffalo. The butte also served as a landmark for planes approaching Regina. A monument was erected on top of the butte commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the community in 1982.


A Cree word kab-tep-was means "the river that calls." A legend tells of a Cree man who was paddling his canoe on the way to his wedding. He heard his name called out. It was the voice of his bride who was still many days travel away. He answered, "Who calls?" A spirit echoed, "Who calls?" He then hurried home only to find out that his bride had died. The last words she spoke were his name. The French settlers who came to Saskatchewan named the river Qu’Appelle, meaning "who calls?" There is also a town named after the river.


The name comes from a red berry which grows in the area. The Cree called the berry "mis-sask-guah-too-min" ( meaning wild berries) which sounded alot like "saskatoon" to the leader of a religious group that had settled on the banks of the river in 1882.


The town was named after an English poet named Robert Southey. Streets in the town are named after other English poets and writers (Keats, Kipling, Burns, Byron, Browning, etc.)


The town is located in the Last Mountain Hills. German pioneers came to this area in 1884 and named the place Strassburg. (Strass meaning street or road, and Burg meaning mountain). The spelling was changed to the French “Strasbourg” in 1919.


Originally the community was to be called Beaver Flats. Since the word Beaver was very popular at the time, the search for a unique name began. Valparaiso means "Paradise Valley" in Spanish.

teepee teepee
Wanuskewin is Cree for "seeking peace of mind". Wanuskewin Heritage Park is the site of a spiritual place which was visited by the Northern Plains Indians for over 6000 years. They came here to hunt, gather food, worship and celebrate. This National Historic site is located on the outskirts of Saskatoon.


The Cree word oskana means "bones". It referred to the piles and piles of bones near a creek where the Cree killed bison. When settlers arrived in the 1880s they set up camp near the creek. The word oskana became "wascana" and the creek was called Wascana Creek. More settlers arrived in the area when a railway station was build near the creek. When this "pile of bones" site was chosen as the new capital of the Northwest Territories it was named Regina.


Scottish railroad workers gave the name "wee burn" to the site at the headwaters of the Souris River.


The name was chosen from a bluff of white poplars that were growing nearby. In the 1880s the community was a supply centre because it was located halfway between Regina, Saskatchewan and Brandon, Manitoba.


This town in southern Saskatchewan was named after the yellow grass in the area. It was built after the railway line was completed in 1893.

MORE PLACE NAMES that came from the languages of the First Peoples-

  • Assiniboia (one who cooks with stones)
  • Kinistino (they who were the first to arrive)
  • Makwa (loon)
  • Moosomin (mooseberries)
  • Sintaluta (end of the fox's tail)
  • Wakaw (the crooked part of the lake)
  • Waskesiu (red deer)
  • Wawota (plenty of snow)


J.Giannetta 2004
(updated 2011)
Web Pages for Students

information was obtained from community websites, the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan and Saskbiz community profiles.

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