CALGARY - A widely misused interpretation of the word "Kananaskis," the name of the site of the coming G8 world economic summit, has made its way on to Canada's official G8 Web site.
The oft-repeated error is contained in a message from Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister, in which he states that Kananaskis is "a Cree word meaning 'meeting of the waters.' "
Popular acceptance of the translation, which is also contained in Alberta government tourist guides and Web sites, diminishes the history of the local Stoney Indians, who live near the G8 site and are not even Cree. Widespread use of the incorrect interpretation threatens to banish the true Stoney name for the area, "ozada," into oblivion, some experts fear.
The word Kananaskis is an English corruption of the name of an Indian who got bludgeoned with an axe, apparently in a fight over a woman. A G8 site named for a "meeting of the waters" may sound better for a gathering of world leaders, but it is not supported by the historical record.
"Kananaskis definitely does not mean 'meeting of the waters,' " said Darren Howe, a linguist at the University of Calgary.
Stan Cuthand, a Cree elder and acknowledged expert on the language, agreed.
"That's not right," said Mr. Cuthand, 83. The correct Cree word for "meeting of the waters" is "sakita-waw," said Mr. Cuthand, a Saskatoon resident who is translating the Bible into Cree for the Canadian Bible Society.
The Kananaskis region, a mountainous area west of Calgary, was named by explorer John Palliser for Kin-e-ah-kis, an Indian whose tribal affiliation Palliser never identified, but who was famous for fending off an axe attack, according to the official provincial gazette, Place Names of Alberta.
Later historical accounts identified Kin-e-ah-kis as Cree, and stated the fight -- near the confluence of the Kananaskis and Bow Rivers -- was over a woman. Other accounts say he was killed.
Regardless of his fate, his name translates from Cree as "one who is grateful," said Mr. Howe, adding: "If he survived this axe blow, I guess he could be grateful."
Alberta Cree are perplexed how the name could come to be known on government Web sites and brochures as "meeting of the waters." Willie Littlechild, a lawyer from Hobbema, Alta., said somebody may be confusing it with the word "Nakiska," a mountain ski resort in the Kananaskis region that in Cree means "meeting place."
The error is frustrating for the local Stoneys, the native group that lives closest to the G8 Summit site. They refer to the Kananaskis area as "ozada," or in its long form, "oz-ada imne."
In the Stoney language, ozada means "where rivers meet," said Ian Getty, research director of the Nakoda Institute, a Stoney cultural centre at Morley, Alta., that works to preserve the Stoney language. The Stoney reserve is located at the junction of the Kananaskis and Bow Rivers where Kin-e-ah-kis fought and where Palliser camped.
But the Stoneys are not Cree. They are a branch of the Sioux and would be insulted to be identified as Cree, even though they were once aligned with the Cree against the Blackfoot, historians say.
Duncan Fulton, a spokesman for the Prime Minister, said Mr. Chrétien's staff consulted widely on the meaning of Kananaskis. He said it was identified by Cree in several provinces as "meeting of the waters" but conceded it may have crept into the language through modern usage.
By associating the area with the Cree, the Prime Minister's message, apparently originating from the Alberta government, misappropriates the history of the Stoneys, says Don Smith, a University of Calgary history professor.
"I'm very upset that he would make a statement like this, with such authority, when so little is known of [Kin-e-ah-kis] or even the proper transcription in English of his name," he said.
The Stoneys are descendants of the Yanktonai Dakota, a Sioux tribe from northern Minnesota, according to Alan D. McMillan, a British Columbia anthropologist and author of Native Peoples and Culture of Canada. After a violent internal rivalry, a branch of the Yanktonai Dakota moved north to the Winnipeg area, where it became known as the Assiniboine.
The Assiniboine moved West and formed alliances with the Cree, who stayed mostly north of the open prairie in the so-called treed "parkland." The Stoneys fought bitterly with the Blackfoot for possession of the eastern slopes of the Alberta Rockies in the area now known as Kananaskis, Mr. McMillan said.
The two enemies ceded the lands to the Queen as co-signators of Treaty 7.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. NoNonsense English offers this material non-commercially for research and educational purposes. I believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner, i.e. the media service or newspaper which first published the article online and which is indicated at the top of the article unless otherwise specified.