Alberta First Nation lobbies for Indigenous name for Tunnel Mountain

The Stoney Nakoda wants Parks Canada and the province to change the Banff, Alta., mountain back to its original Aboriginal name.

Stoney Nakoda wants Banff mountain renamed Sacred Buffalo Guardian

“The colloquial name, the local name is Sleeping Buffalo Mountain,” says Bill Snow, a member of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. (Harvey Locke)

When CPR surveyors were mapping the route through Banff for Canada's first transcontinental railway, they considered drilling a tunnel through a mountain in the middle of Banff.

Even though the tunnel was never built — the name Tunnel Mountain stuck.

But that's not what Aboriginal people in the area call it.

"The colloquial name, the local name is Sleeping Buffalo Mountain," said Bill Snow, with the Stoney Tribal Administration, told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Now the Stoney Nakoda First Nation is lobbying Parks Canada and the province to adopt the Indigenous name for Tunnel Mountain.

Sacred Buffalo Guardian Mountain

However, they actually want it renamed Sacred Buffalo Guardian — which leaders and elders agree is the most accurate English translation of the name from the Stoney Nakoda language.

"The meaning that we have, as Stoney Nakoda, is that the mountain actually acts as a guardian over the many different types of special waters, special herbs, medicines that grow in that area," said Snow.

Bill Snow is with Stoney Nakoda Tribal Administration. (Submitted)

The First Nation has sent a letter requesting the name change to the Geographical Names Board of Canada, the national co-ordinating body for place names.

In an email statement, the board said it could take "several months or longer" for Parks Canada and the Alberta Ministry of Culture and Tourism to review the request and make a decision.

Snow said the name change is an important part of "the wider reconciliation story that we're all involved in" and recognizing the area's First Nation history.

"The meaning of a lot of places have been glossed over … there's a lot important places where the names don't reflect the true meaning."

The view from the top of Tunnel Mountain in Banff, Alta. First Nation groups in the area want Parks Canada and the province to rename the mountain Sacred Buffalo Guardian. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener