October 20, 2021

The Queens County Citizen

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Toponimi, an effective tool for recalling the past of the first nations

Toponimi, an effective tool for recalling the past of the first nations

(Edmonton) There is a growing movement in Canada to give aboriginal names to geographical places or streets. In this way we hope that its supporters will partially eliminate the colonialism that they themselves are victims of.


Daniela Germano
The Canadian Press

In Edmonton, for example, the City Council passed a by-law in early December to name its 12 electoral districts by the same number – primitive names.

The Aboriginal Women’s Committee chose names from words from nine different groups: Cree, Dene, Inuit, Blackfoot, Anishinabe, Michif (Matis), Mohawk, Sioux and Papasches.

The committee decided in advance not to elect the names of the people. “No one can be placed above or below others, its co-president Terry Suntjens is pleading. We will not put anyone on the pedestal. This is not the way we do things.”

For example, District 2 is named “Anirik”. The word inuktun means life or breath of the soul. The name was recommended by adults to honor Inuit, who died of tuberculosis in Edmonton.

In the 1950s and 1960s, one-third of people in northern Inuit were infected and many were transported south for treatment. Many died without the knowledge of their families and were buried in the city cemetery.

Rob Howell, a native author and researcher who worked on the committee, said the comments were very positive, despite resistance from advisers.

This animosity prompted Councilor Aaron Pacqueto to write on Twitter, “For those who are concerned about pronouncing new potential district names, if we can pronounce Saskatchewan, we can pronounce anything. ”

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In 2019, Rue Amherst of Montreal became the Atatకkn, which means “brother and sister”. The Old Toponym represents Jeffrey Amhurst, a British Army general who led the occupation of Montreal in 1760, and sent troops to Detroit to quell a local uprising in Pontiac in 1763.

Toponimi is not the only area where the first species wanted to erase landmarks of the past.

Last summer, protesters demolished a statue of John A. MacDonald in downtown Montreal. The Prime Minister of Canada has criticized racism against indigenous peoples.

In Halifax, a team, including Micmac Chiefs of Nova Scotia, recommended the removal of a statue dedicated to city founder Edward Cornwallis. He asked that a street and park be renamed in his honor.

According to him, bowing in memory of Cornwallis, a British officer facing genocide charges against indigenous peoples, is contrary to current values.

In British Columbia, a project to use indigenous names for certain communities along the Sunshine coast met with fierce opposition in March.

Peter Robson, president of the local residents’ association, said non-native people were not contacted or informed of the changes.

He said his residence, Madeira Park, an incorporated municipality, would be renamed “Salalus” in 2018 as part of an agreement between British Columbia and the Seychelles Nation.

“We cannot deny that we are the people of the country [Sechelt] Lived here before the natives. However, recent history deserves to be recognized, “said Robson, chief of The Christian Science Monitor’s Washington bureau.

In September, the racist and Mizonistic name of the rocky outcrop at Mount Charles-Stewart in Alberta was changed to Anu Katha Ipa (Bald Eagle’s Peak).

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Christina Gray, a lawyer and researcher from the Yellowhead Institute, welcomed the new district names in Edmonton. She hopes other jurisdictions will follow as well.

“This year in particular, we’ve seen a change in perspective when it comes to problematic people in Canadian history,” Mr said.To me Gray. This is also changing in many other countries that have been subjected to colonialism and imperialism. ”