In 2014, several Indigenous leaders and elders submitted a request to the chairperson of the Geographical Names Board of Canada to recognize and return the original name to the mountain, currently known as Tunnel Mountain.
The original name of this small mountain located in the heart of the Banff townsite is Iinii Istako (Sleeping Buffalo) in Siksika (Blackfoot), or Eyarhey Tatanga Woweyahgey Wakân (Sacred Buffalo Guardian Mountain) in the Stoney Nakoda language. The letter was an announcement the time had arrived to start the process to right past wrongs.
It is long past time to start physically changing the colonial signs that mistakenly and egregiously identify the mountain for something it never was, a tunnel. The delay of all who can initiate the performance of this task as an act of reconciliation is dumbfounding.
For generations, it was known as Sleeping Buffalo. The mountain was unjustifiably re-named Tunnel Mountain after an idea to build a railroad through it in the early years of colonization failed. When one nears arrival to the Banff townsite from the east, a clear outline of the mountain does indeed take the form of a Sleeping Buffalo, and once you see it, you will never un-see this image from future visits.
Sleeping Buffalo is something I look forward to seeing every time I make my arrival to the town. Sleeping Buffalo exudes a welcoming sense upon recognizing its presence and, I like so many others, feel it in my heart.
Seven years have passed since the request to return and address this sacred landmark by the Indigenous name given generations ago. Seven years and little has happened to honour this request. The Truth and Reconciliation Report was released in 2015 and included 94 calls to action requests. It has been six years since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accepted the report on behalf of Canada, and according to a CBC report, as of January 2020, only 10 Calls to Action have been completed.
As more people become educated on these issues and the seemingly slow progress of the action, more people become aware that the re-naming process of Sleeping Buffalo is deserving of immediate collective action.
Why does it take so long to address Indigenous issues that make sense? How can it be that a mountain that looks like a Sleeping Buffalo, pareidolia that is hard to un-see once seen, like the Badlands Guardian in southeastern Alberta, warrant further delay?
It is a matter of respect. Re-naming the mountain is a manner of deep-felt effective action towards reconciliation. Re-naming the mountain with honest intention and with the justifiable purpose that all involved can and have the authority for the means for immediate implementation.
The time is now to end this ongoing act of aversive racism. Act now without further delay and acknowledge this sacred mountain by its proper name.
To add your voice, email the Alberta Geographical Names Program at Ronald.firstname.lastname@example.org and the Geographical Names Board of Canada at email@example.com to promote action.