Students explore the history of Canada's Aboriginal peoples, immigrants and diverse cultural groups by ranking five place names that best represent the cultural presence of an assigned group.
Introduction to researching the history of your community name
As a class, invite students to find the story behind the name of their community by researching local history. Discuss whether the name reflects the historical background of the community. Invite students to consider the following criteria when making their decision:
- past influence: Does it reflect the cultural history of the community; e.g., reflects the people, their language, heritage or contributions?
- present influence: Is the name still representative of the community today; e.g., the influence of the cultural group is still present?
Example: How Calgary got its name
Use the example of Calgary to discuss how a place name may represent the culture of that site. Explain how Calgary got its name:
- was named by Lieutenant-Colonel James Farquarson Macleod (NWMP)
- is the name of the ancestral estate of Macleod's cousins on the Isle of Mull, Scotland
- was a police post established on the Bow River in 1876
- translated from Gaelic, it means "clear running water"
- was called moll-inistsis-in-aka-apewis by the Blackfoot, which translates to "elbow many houses" and o-toos-kwa-nik by the Cree, which translates to "elbow house." Both refer to the Elbow River.
Demonstrate the use of online encyclopedias, such Grolier or World Book, and print resources to research the history of Calgary's name (see References).
Apply criteria for cultural representation to Calgary's name
Discuss whether the name Calgary reflects the city's cultural history. Point out that the name Calgary represents the past cultural influence of the Scottish settlers but bears no record of the pre-existing Aboriginal presence. The Gaelic translation is still relevant to some extent. Some of the regions and suburbs of Calgary have Scottish names such as Airdrie, Cochrane and Glenmore. Although it is no longer a police post, there is a sizable military presence. There are now many more cultural groups besides British immigrants in Calgary.
Research connections between cultural groups and place names
Divide students into groups, with each group focusing on a different group of people who have influenced the history of a region in Canada. Invite students to look for groups whose history is strongly connected to a particular community, and then assess the past and contemporary cultural relevancy of the place names.
Some examples of communities whose history is connected to a particular group include:
- Aboriginal peoples; e.g., Meadow Lake, Hobbema, Onion Lake, Saddle Lake, Paddle Prairie, Tuktoyaktuk
- Francophones; e.g., Bonnyville, Lac La Biche, St. Paul and other Francophone communities outside of Québec
- United Empire Loyalists; e.g., Fredericton, Cornwall, Belleville
- immigrants from the British Isles; e.g., Airdrie, Cochrane
- non-European immigrants; e.g., Steveson, Amber Valley
- European immigrants; e.g., Vegreville, Neerlandia.
Provide students with a list of online and print sources to research the history of the names of a number of Canadian cities (see References). Direct students to find between three and five place names that reflect the cultural presence of their assigned groups.
In smaller communities, suggest that students contact a local historian or tourist centre for information about the origins of the community's name.
Rank place names
After groups have finished their research, ask them to rank the place names according to how well each name represents the historical and contemporary presence of their assigned group. The name giving the best cultural representation is assigned #1.
Review the criteria for a significant representation discussed in the opening example:
- reflects the cultural history of the community
- reflects the influences of the cultural group today.
Ask students to prepare a three-column chart to record the relevant information:
- left-hand column: the place names,
- middle column: relevant facts about the past and present history of the name—what the name means, why it received that name, how well it reflects the cultural group today
- right-hand column: justification of rankings.
You may want to adapt one of the charts in Ranking Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.
Share best representations
Invite groups to share their most representative community name and history with the class.
Extension: Create a heritage name for the classroom
Ask students to create a heritage name for the classroom based on the cultural diversity of the class. Brainstorm appropriate names and then vote on each name using the wild rose rating system. Each student has seven roses to award to those names that are deemed most deserving, but students may award a maximum of two roses to any single name. Encourage students to use the criteria for an appropriate name when deciding how to assign their votes.