Big Bear Park

Place Name: Big Bear Park

Feature Type (Year Approved): Park (1986)

Name Origins: Commemorative of Chief Mistahimaskwa


Mistahimaskwa, meaning Big Bear, received his name after he had a vision of the Bear Spirit, the most sacred spirit for the Cree.*
From The Canadian Encyclopedia:

* I am not sure how valid this is as I know next to nothing about Cree Culture. If anyone can clarify, I’d appreciate it. Furthermore, while Big Bear is Commemorative of Chief Mistahimaskwa, the anglicisation of Mistahimaskwa is in itself problematic. I am uncertain how to characterise the ‘Cultural Affiliation’ since ‘Big Bear’ is clearly being used to make Settlers more comfortable with Cree names.

Cultural Affiliation: Cree

Gender: Male

Naming Edmonton: From Ada to Zoie

This 1.74-ha. park in the Bearspaw neighbourhood honours the life of Plains Cree Chief Mistahimaskwa "Big Bear" (c. 1825-1888). By the 1870s, Big Bear, who had been born in what is now Saskatchewan, was a leader of his people. In 1876 he refused to sign Treaty No. 6 because he believed it would destroy his people's way of life. By 1882, however, the threat of starvation finally forced him to submit to the treaty, and with it, to accept the forced relocation of Aboriginal people onto reserves. He was later blamed for the Frog Lake Massacre of 1885. Despite his innocence, Big Bear surrendered at Fort Carleton and faced treason charges. He was found guilty and sentenced to three years at Stony Mountain Penitentiary. Big Bear served two years of his term before being released because of ill health. He returned to the Poundmaker Reserve where he died the following year.

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