Okotoks council members voted on four new names for local parks on Monday (March 22.)

Council was briefed on the new names during a Governance and Priorities Committee (GPC) meeting, with two of them having been recommended by Indigenous consultants.

The upcoming Riverside Park/Bible Camp land will likely be named 'Iitopatopa,' with Dewdney Park to be renamed 'Pisttoo.'

The renaming of Dewdney Park has been in the works for some time, with the previous council having voted to reconsider its name in 2021.

Pisttoo, which was recommended by former Siksika Band Council member Scotty Many Guns-Onistaomahka, is the Blackfoot term for the nighthawk, who played a prominent figure in the story of Napi and the Big Rock.

The story is the basis for the town's current name and explains how the Okotoks Erratic split in two.

While Dewdney Park is a reference to the town's former name, the historical figure Edgar Dewdney had little to no connection with the town outside of a friendship with John Lineham, one of Okotoks' elder statesmen.

That, and Dewdney's use of rations as a means of coercion against Indigenous peoples as well as his role in the formation of residential schools played big factors in the decision to remove the name as part of the town's reconciliation efforts.

According to Mayor Tanya Thorn, there are plans for a display in the park explaining who Edgar Dewdney was, as well as the meaning behind the park's new name.

“Iitopatopa was recommended by Piikani Elder Shirlee Crow Shoe (Misamiinisikim) after visiting the Riverside/Bible Camp land with a Blackfoot assessment team.

The name means "a place where we return often," and was given based on the team's assessment that the land was likely a favoured place to stop for those passing through the area, given its proximity to the river crossing.

Mayor Thorn is glad to finally take these reconciliatory steps in conjunction with Indigenous consultation.

"We talk about our history but very little of our history seems to reflect the indigenous history that's here. We're called Okotoks which is actually 'Big Rock,' and there's a whole Indigenous story related to the name. I think it's important that we start to weave that history into the fire that is Okotoks."

The other two names council members voted on were for parks located at 1400 North Railway Street and 245 Mountainview Drive.

They voted in favour of renaming them after former mayor Bill Robertson and T. Allen King, respectively.

Both men were prominent figures in the community who passed away in 2021.

It should be noted that since Monday's meeting was a GPC meeting rather than a regular council meeting, so council has yet to formally make the final vote, but rather the GPC has made a recommendation to council.

The final vote will happen at their next regular council meeting on March 28.

Thorn says it's a bit of a redundant step in the process, and one that council is looking to eliminate.

"We also, subsequent to that, made a change to our naming policy, looking to have the authority to name streets and parks and all of that delegated to the GPC committee because it's made up of all of council, and that we wouldn't bring it to formal council meeting because it's the same people dealing with the decision at both tables."