Petition launched to support renaming Banff’s Tunnel Mountain

A petition is circling in the popular tourist town of Banff to rename one of its most-used peaks.

Tunnel Mountain sits in the heart of the community.

People hike it, camp on it, bike on it. There are resorts on it and even homes. It’s been a sacred place for generations of Indigenous people.

“It’s associated with the hot springs, which is a place of peace, and they would actually share that place,” said Harvey Locke, a longtime Banff resident.

“This place had a meaning and a shape that meant a lot to a lot of different Indigenous peoples of different groups.”

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It’s believed the mountain got its name after a surveyor for the railway mistakenly thought they would have to drill a tunnel through the mountain but instead ended up going around it. The name stuck.

However, Indigenous groups already had a name for the prominent landmark. It was called Buffalo Mountain or Sleeping Buffalo for the strong resemblance to the animal many depended on. It was considered a guardian of the area.

“We can commemorate the fact that a surveyor didn’t know that the Cascade Valley existed and he went up the Bow and thought they’d have to put a tunnel through the mountain. It’s a nice story. It doesn’t have to be lost,” said Locke, who is among a group advocating for the name to be changed back.

“A mountain that looks like a buffalo — at a time of reconciliation, having its name Buffalo restored, which is associated with the reintroduction to bison to [the] Banff National Park landscape, it’s a winner for every Canadian.”

Locke said ceremonies have already been held among all Indigenous groups associated with the area in agreement of the name change. They’ve been waiting for approval from the Alberta Geographical Names Program since 2016 and have a petition going with hopes of drawing up more support to speed up the process.

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No one from the Alberta Ministry of Culture and Tourism returned Global News’ request for comment.

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