Fighting Words?

Origin of the Names Battle Lake, Battle Creek and Battle River

Note: This post was originally published on RETROactive March 9, 2011.

Battle Lake is located approximately 53 km west of Wetaskawin and is one of a series of water features in the area that are identified by the name Battle, including Battle Creek, Battle Lake and Battle River.

The name Battle Lake was first recorded in the 1883 field notes of Tom Kains of the Dominion Land Survey (DLS). He recorded it as “Battle River Lake” due to its location on the Battle River. He later shortened the name to Battle Lake and, in 1901, that form of the name was approved by the Geographic Board of Canada for use on maps.

Aerial Imagery Showing Battle Creek, Battle Lake, Battle River and Samson Lake

Battle Lake is fed by Battle Creek, which flows easterly into the lake at its north-westerly point. The creek was first recorded by the DLS as “Battle Lake Creek” in 1903. Two year later, the DLS shortened the name to Battle Creek, but the name was not officially adopted until 1960.

The name Battle River has a much longer history. The first recorded reference to the Battle River was by explorer Anthony Henday, who spent considerable time in the region during the 1750s. He referred to the river as “Chacutenah.” The inspiration and translation of that name is not currently known.

The name Battle River was first recorded by explorer Peter Fidler. In his journal entry of November 14, 1792, he writes that his party “came to the Battle or Fighting River, which is only about 3 yards wide & very little water in it, which runs in a very serpentine course thru a valley SE & NW & falls into the Saskatchewan river after receiving several small streams about 40 miles below Manchester House” [Note: Manchester House was a Hudson’s Bay Company post just east of present day Lloydminster].

The name Battle River is supposedly a translation of the Cree no-tin-to-si-pi and/or the Stoney kec-hi-sab-wapta, although it is also referred to by the Blackfoot as kinok-kxis-sis-ughty (little or half river). Traditional and local knowledge is that the river formed the boundary between the territories of the Blackfoot and the Cree peoples and that many battles occurred along its length.

Interestingly there was another Battle Lake located about 65 km to the south east. In 1914, it appeared on maps as Battle Lake. It was believed that having two lakes with the same name in such close proximity would cause confusion, so, by 1921, the name of this lake was changed to Samson Lake after Cree Chief Samson.

For a larger view of the above map, click here.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator

One comment

  1. Wonderful to read this reprint article about Battle Lake, Battle River, and this incredible region of Central Alberta.

    Over the past several years, a growing number of individuals have begun to learn about the area through seasonal nature walks to Mt. Butte (high above Battle Lake), and various places along the Battle River and its watershed areas.

    Increasingly, artists and writers are creating works inspired by the region; most recently, an anthology by Battle River Writers, photographers, musicians, etc. entitled “Beauty Everyday: Stories from Life as it Happens.” Already the book has taken some of the writers to Australia where there are strong linkages forming with the people of the Hopkins River.

    On a related note: some people confuse Battle River of Central Alberta (which runs from Battle Lake on the west to Battleford on the east) with Battle River Prairie in northern Alberta. Perhaps Retroactive will also explore that place name so as to help clarify the frequent confusion.

    Many thanks for reprinting the article – and stay posted for more creative work from the Battle River Region!

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