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    The story of how Medicine Hat got its name

    The romantic legend that tells how Medicine Hat, Alberta, got its name is told in The Leader, Regina, July 5, 1883.

    Many years ago a battle took place between the Blackfeet on the one side, and a body of Crees and Sioux on the other, which resulted in a victory for the Blackfeet. The scene of the battle was what is known among the Indians as “Bitter Lake,” a small body of water at the end of the valley here, and connecting with the Saskatchewan [river].

    medicine hat na-58-5

    An 1885 view of Medicine Hat and the steamboat Northcote, steaming upstream  on the South Saskatchewan River. From The Riel Rebellion of 1885, a magazine published by Witness Publishing Company, Montreal. Glenbow Archives NA-58-5.

    The legend runs that during the battle, or in the confusion resulting from it, the “medicine man” of the Sioux tribe lost his hat, the symbol of his office among his tribe and by which he was distinguished from the rest of them.

    The Indians have their peculiar superstition about the losing of the medicine man’s hat, that if it be lost, all the herbs, roots, charms and potions which previously were efficacious in removing the ills of the flesh, will afterwards be useless. Accordingly, when the battle was over he and a number of his tribe set about to search for the lost hat. Their search proved fruitless, but continuing with the hope of success till late in the evening, they were amazed and horror stricken on seeing through the deepening twilight, apparently standing on the surface of the “Bitter Lake” for a moment, and then disappearing beneath the waves, an immense figure bearing the resemblance of a man with a hand outstretched on which rested the object of their search, the medicine man’s hat.

    The Sioux call the place “Pequapi,” meaning “a hat on the hand.” The traditions of the other tribes correspond with this one of the Sioux. The name of the locality in the Blackfoot language is “Na-ye-ho,” the hat on the breast, and the Cree name, “Na-ye-o,” “the hat on the hand.”

    We think the Sioux name, “Pequapi,” a very beautiful one and the name that should be given to the town. In our opinion, the names associated with the localities are the ones they should receive and not those having no association with them whatever (as in the case of Regina.)

    About Canada, my latest book, is crammed with more “Amazing stuff” about our great nation, says popular historian Christopher Moore. “I’m a fan,” he adds. For a free sampler copy, more information and accolades, or to order your copy, click here.

    TAGS Medicine Hat, Place Names, Alberta, South Saskatchewan River, Blackfeet, Cree, Sioux, Medicine Men, Superstitions, Legends, Steamboats

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