Medicine Man’s Hat

30 Aug

Medicine Hat in Alberta was named in 1882 by Cpl Walter Johnson of the North-West Mounted Police. Johnson may have simply translated the Blackfoot Saamis, “head-dress of a medicine man”, in reference to the shape of a small hill.

Medicine Hat

View from the Finley Bridge, looking southwest toward City Hall and Court of Queen’s Bench. MedHatRiverViewCC BY-SA 3.0
Festbock – Own work

However, at least 13 legends about the naming of the place have evolved over the years.

One story often told claims a Blackfoot medicine man was killed during a battle with the Cree medicine man’s hat, with the Cree fleeing.

When some suggestions were made in 1910 to give the city a more prosaic name, such as Gasburg, or Smithville, the calamity was stifled after famous British writer Rudyard Kipling sharply rebuked the thought of such insolence.

There is a great book, Dictionary of Canadian Place Names that I still refer to for research, and sometimes just to read through. To visit the official page for the city of Medicine hat, click HERE! If you are thinking of visiting Medicine Hat someday, I refer you to Medicine Hat Tourism.


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14 responses to “Medicine Man’s Hat

  1. Tom Schultz

    September 11, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Thank you for clearing up this mystery. I’ve been through Medicine Hat a number of times via rail and transcanada hwy. Always wondered about the colorful name. And thanks for stopping by my blog to like the Lincoln post. πŸ™‚ And if you’re interested in reading some of my own Canadian history (with a few minor changes for literary license)….

    • tkmorin

      September 11, 2014 at 10:01 am

      Thank you. I’m going to go check your Canadian post – I look forward to it! πŸ™‚

  2. TheTravelingUrbanite

    September 1, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Thanks for another great post! I always wondered about how the Hat got its name but never looked it up. Now I know that it’s still a mystery πŸ™‚

    • tkmorin

      September 1, 2014 at 7:15 pm

      LOL Yeah, I basically wrote “I don’t know” didn’t I? πŸ™‚

      • TheTravelingUrbanite

        September 1, 2014 at 7:16 pm

        Lol. You wrote that there are multiple answers, that is perfectly legitimate and accurate πŸ™‚

  3. Maurice A. Barry

    September 1, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    I had not thought of it before…but am now. Maybe I’ll get my “thinking hat” on πŸ™‚

    • tkmorin

      September 1, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      LOL. πŸ™‚

  4. Gypsy Bev

    August 30, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Even if there are several possibilities for names of places, there is always a bit of history connected to each one.

    • tkmorin

      August 31, 2014 at 8:37 am

      and some of them can be very interesting, eh? πŸ™‚

  5. seeker

    August 30, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    A native name is appropriate for any Canadian landmark.

    • tkmorin

      August 30, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      You are right about that! As a matter of fact, so many are! πŸ™‚

  6. purrfectkitties

    August 30, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    It’s really interesting to learn more on how places got their names, isn’t it!? Thanks for this lovely post! πŸ™‚ Have a wonderful weekend! πŸ˜€ xx Roxy & Tigerlino ❀

    • tkmorin

      August 30, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      Why thank you!! Kind words are always appreciated! πŸ™‚


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