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Okotoks honours Piistoo Park on Indigenous Peoples Day

"In recognition of this day and as a step towards reconciliation, we are here taking action by renaming this park space to Piistoo Park."
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Siksika drumming group Blackfoot Crossing, Bradford Blackrider, left, James Blackrider, centre, and Cole Crowchief drummed during a ceremony renaming Dewdney Park to Piistoo Park outside of the Okotoks Art Gallery on June 21.

A new name was finally given to an Okotoks park Tuesday afternoon, on National Indigenous Peoples Day. 

"In recognition of this day and as a step towards reconciliation, we are here taking action by renaming this park space to Piistoo Park," said Mayor Tanya Thorn. 

A new name for the green space at 53 North Railway Street has been in the works for nearly a year, since it came to light that the former namesake Edgar Dewdney had deep connections to the creation of Canada's residential school system. 

Last spring, the Town made a decision to remove the name Dewdney from Dewdney Park and replace it with a new title following consultation with the Indigenous community.

On June 21, the new name was officially adopted and commemorated with stories from Siksika and Piikani Nation elders, drummers from Siksika Nation, a friendship dance and the construction of a teepee by Desmond Jackson from the Piikani First Nation. 

Jackson said that the teepee was gifted to him by a Blackfoot elder and tells the story of the iniskim, the buffalo calling stones. A Blackfoot story tells of the people being starving, no buffalo in sight, when a stone spoke to a woman and told her how to use the iniskim in a ceremony that would call plenty of buffalo. 

In March, it was announced that a Siksika Nation elder, Scotty Many Guns-Onistaomahka (Running Calf) had suggested the name Piistoo, after the Blackfoot name for nighthawk. The bird is part of the story of Napi and the Big Rock (Okohtok), the central story of creation for the Blackfoot. This week, Kainai Nation consultation co-ordinator Mike Oka and Piikani Nation consultation co-ordinator Ira Provost were also recognized for their role in the naming of the new park. 

"The history is very well recorded," said Oka. "None of our history is made up, none of our history is copied out of books.

"We know where we came from and we know where we've been and we know where we are today and, our language continues." 

Elders Shirlee Crow Shoe and Clifford Crane Bear and Elder Scotty Many Guns were all present at the ceremony held outside the Okotoks Art Gallery. Crow Shoe and Crane Bear took time to tell stories of their people during, including the story of Napi. 

"Today is a day for all Canadians to acknowledge the unique heritage, diverse cultures, outstanding contributions, talents and traditions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people," said Thorn. 

"I ask all Okotokians to recognize, celebrate and honour the achievements, struggles, contributions and resiliency of Canada's Indigenous peoples, not only on this national Indigenous People's Day, but everyday." 

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Okotoks Mayor Tanya Thorn speaks during a naming ceremony for Piistoo Park at the Okotoks Art Gallery on June 21. Robert Korotyszyn/OkotoksToday.ca
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Shirlee Crow Shoe speaks from the podium at a ceremony to rename the former Dewdney Park to Piistoo Park at the Okotoks Art Gallery on June 21. Robert Korotyszyn/OkotoksToday.ca
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Mike Oka speaks at a ceremony renaming what was known as Dewdney Park, outside of the Okotoks Art Gallery, to Piistoo Park on June 21. . Robert Korotyszyn/OkotoksToday.ca
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People take part in a round dance symbolizing friendship after a ceremony was held to rename the former Dewdney Park to Piistoo Park outside of the Okotoks Art Gallery on June 21. Robert Korotyszyn/OkotoksToday.ca

 


Lauryn Heintz

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