Saskatoon

Saskatoon's North Commuter Parkway bridge named after Chief Mistawasis

Chief Mistawasis, also known as Pierre Belanger, was the head of the Prairie Tribe and signed Treaty 6 in 1876.

Name revealed at National Indigenous Peoples Day event Thursday morning

The name for the north commuter bridge was revealed at an event on Thursday. It will be called the Chief Mistawasis Bridge. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

The new name of Saskatoon's north commuter bridge is Chief Mistawasis.

Chief Mistawasis, also known as Pierre Belanger, was the head of the Prairie Tribe and signed Treaty 6 in 1876.

The new name for the North Commuter Parkway bridge was announced Thursday morning at a National Indigenous Peoples Day event at Victoria Park, which included Indigenous elders, residential school and Sixties Scoop survivors and local dignitaries.

"Today is a very momentous occasion for my nation. It's part of the whole process of reconciliation," said Mistiawasis Nêhiyawak Chief Daryl Watson at the unveiling.

"Chief Mistawasis, 140 years ago, began that process when he acknowledged the territory by welcoming newcomers to share the land. Reconciliation began for us when treaty was signed."

City council had decided to rename the bridge in recognition of Indigenous peoples' history and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.

When the name was unveiled, the hundreds of people in attendance cheered, and a drum played long after the applause petered out.

Shirley Isbister, president of the Central Urban Métis Federation, has familial ties to Mistawasis First Nation, and spoke on behalf of the naming committee.

Shirley Isbister, president of the Central Urban Métis Federation, took some time to compose herself before speaking on behalf of the naming committee

"The bottom line is this is the name that answers the call for reconciliation, and answers the call for TRC number 79," she said, after explaining her husband's family hails from the Mistawasis Nêhiyawak.

"My grandchildren will always be able to go across this bridge and know that is the community and the relative that they come from."

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action No. 79 calls for government "in collaboration with survivors, Aboriginal organizations, and the arts community, to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration."

Four proposed names were selected by a group of Indigenous elders and residential school survivors, from among 461 submissions that had been sent in to the city.

The other three names considered were: Louis Riel, Waniskâ (WOHN'-skuh), or the Wîcîhitowin (wee-chee-HEE'-toh-win) Bridge.

Métis leader Louis Riel led the Resistance of 1885. The Cree word Waniskâ means "to arise" while the Cree word Wîcîhitowin means "to help mutually" or "the act of helping one another."

Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark spoke about how appropriate the Mistawasis name is for a bridge, which connects people and places.

"Chief Mistawasis, the Mistawasis people have used this river for thousands of years, and to have that connection as people go over the South Saskatchewan River on the bridge helps to tell a long story about how people have lived in this land and this territory," he said.

The North Commuter Parkway bridge is expected to be completed in October.

The final recommendation for the name Chief Mistawasis will be presented to city council in August for formal approval, according to a City of Saskatoon news release.

About the Author

Ashleigh Mattern is a web writer and reporter with CBC Saskatoon, CBC Saskatchewan, and CBC North; and an associate producer with Saskatoon Morning. She has been working as a journalist since 2007 and joined CBC in 2017. Email: ashleigh.mattern@cbc.ca

With files from Bridget Yard