Hobbema to change name in New Year
Hobbema will become "Maskwacis" on January 1st
First Nations groups on reserves south of Edmonton say provincial and county governments will soon recognize a new name for their community.
The Samson Cree First Nation says Hobbema will become "Maskwacis" – Cree for “Bear Hill” – on January 1st.
Band members say the area wasn't called Hobbema until 1891, when the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway named a flag station after a Dutch landscape painter.
Now, residents say switching the name to its traditional form will better reflect the heritage of the tribe that lives there.
"When I was little kid I thought, why is this place called Hobbema? It's not a Cree word. I thought it was a Cree word because it sounds Cree," said resident Melvin Willier.
Now, Willier said he’s seen his own children grow to question the place name, much like he did as a child.
"This is Maskwacis and it should be called Maskwacis."
He says he'll be proud to teach them about the new name, and pass down a piece of his identity and culture.
"I need to see a change for my children and their children. [I'm] going to want to be a grandfather one day and speak Cree with them."
And Willier hopes that a new name will help reflect the area’s changing reputation, helping to step away from its past notoriety.
"The future is only going to get better here."
With files from The Canadian Press