People Places: Saskatchewan and Its Names


202 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88977-114-6
DDC 917.124'003





Reviewed by William A. Waiser

William A. Waiser is a professor of history at the University of
Saskatchewan, and the author of Saskatchewan’s Playground: A History
of Prince Albert National Park and Park Prisoners: The Untold Story of
Western Canada’s National Parks, 1915–1946.


For almost a quarter of a century, the standard reference book on
Saskatchewan toponymy has been E.T. Russell’s ever-popular What’s in
a Name (1973); it not only went through three editions, but was recently
reissued by another Prairie press. This favored status, however, has
come to an end with the publication of People Places.

More than a simple alphabetical listing of Saskatchewan place names and
their origins, People Places seeks to tell the larger story behind the
names that make up the province’s collective history by means of a
series of chapters on particular themes or topics. There are toponymic
essays on the First Nations legacy, the role of railways, the influence
of other cultures and nationalities, and the recognition of political
figures, government officials, and civil servants.

This way of presenting the history of Saskatchewan’s place
names—complete with maps and photographs—makes for interesting
reading; indeed, People Places is more akin to an encyclopedia than to a
dictionary. The author also demonstrates that determining the source of
a place name is not always an easy task and that the researcher is
sometimes confronted with more than one possible explanation—or simply
with wrong information. In fact, at one point, the author invites
readers to try to help him solve some outstanding toponymic problems.

The only disappointment is that People Places does not include all
Saskatchewan place names, and the entries tend to emphasize the
southern, more populated half of the province. Still, it serves as an
important reminder of Saskatchewan’s aboriginal beginnings, and that
it once was the third most populous province in Canada.


Barry, Bill., “People Places: Saskatchewan and Its Names,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,