What's in a name? A lot when it comes to Regina's Dewdney Avenue

What's in a name? A lot when it comes to Regina's Dewdney Avenue
What's in a name? A lot when it comes to Regina's Dewdney Avenue

اخبار العرب-كندا 24: الخميس 23 مايو 2024 07:50 مساءً

Dewdney Avenue is getting a long-awaited facelift, and a motion heading to Regina city council next month asks whether the major thoroughfare should have a new name as well.

The major road, which runs east to west through almost the entire length of Regina, stretches from the RCMP's Depot Divison through the neighbourhood of north central and past downtown. A $32-million revitalization of the stretch of Dewdney Avenue between Albert Street and Broad Street was announced last month.

However, community organizers have been attempting for years to get the city to rename the street, saying there's no reason to honour its namesake, Lord Edgar Dewdney.

Dewdney served as commissioner of Indian Affairs and lieutenant governor of the North-West Territories, much of which now comprises the Prairie provinces, in the late 19th century.

He selected Regina as its capital before Saskatchewan became a province.

Dewdney also helped set up Canada's reserve system, withheld food and rations from Indigenous communities, which resulted in starvation, and established Indian residential schools.

"Renaming our city's neighbourhoods, our parks is one act of reconciliation, because how do I feel like I belong? Where is the representation of my Indigenous history on this land?" said Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway, a Regina artist.

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway is an artist and the founder of the Buffalo People's Arts Institute, a not-for-profit organization that works to revitalize cultural activities and traditional forms of knowledge.

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway is an artist and the founder of the Buffalo People's Arts Institute, a not-for-profit organization that works to revitalize cultural activities and traditional forms of knowledge.

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway, founder of the Buffalo People's Arts Institute, says she will continue to seek the name change regardless of the outcome of the upcoming vote by city council on the matter, (CBC)

BigEagle-Kequahtooway is also the founder of the Buffalo People's Arts Institute, a non-profit organization that works to revitalize cultural activities and traditional forms of knowledge.

She helped organize and submit a petition requesting that the city strip the Dewdney name from its assets, including a park, pool and the major avenue.

Her efforts were only partly successful. In 2021 the pool and park were renamed Buffalo Meadows.

"It was an easier decision to make because it didn't impact that many people, whereas changing Dewdney Avenue will cause some effects within the community — but I think that that's a good thing," BigEagle-Kequahtooway said.

Coun. Dan LeBlanc (Ward 6) said renaming Dewdney Avenue felt like "unfinished businesses."

That's why LeBlanc and Coun. Andrew Stevens (Ward 3) are putting a motion before council that, if passed, would direct the city to rename Dewdney Avenue "as soon as practicable."

"It's totally improper to have a major street in Regina named after an open settler-colonialist racist," LeBlanc said.

LISTEN| Regina's mayor talks about whether the city will rename Dewdney Avenue

It's not yet clear how Regina city council will vote on the proposal. Mayor Sandra Masters appeared uncommitted when asked on Wednesday.

"It is one of our longest roads in the city, and there's 2,500 businesses and residents that are on that street," Masters said, adding that must be balanced against the demands of those who believe the name must be changed.

LeBlanc pointed to council endorsing an Indigenous framework as a reason his proposal should receive support.

Edgar Dewdney photographed in 1883. Dewdney was the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories.

Edgar Dewdney photographed in 1883. Dewdney was the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories.

Edgar Dewdney, photographed in 1883, was the commissioner of Indian Affairs and lieutenant governor of the North-West Territories. He also helped set up Canada's reserve system, established Indian residential schools, and withheld food from Indigenous communities, which resulted in starvation. (© Topley Studio/Library and Archives Canada | Bibliothèque et Archives Canada/PA-025580)

That document was supposed to be a concrete commitment to reconciliation by the city's government. LeBlanc says now is the time to prove it.

The Ward 6 councillor says wants the Indigenous community to be consulted if and when a new name is chosen to replace Dewdney.

"I hope there's some kind of reclamation," LeBlanc said.

BigEagle-Kequahtooway says she will not be demoralized if the effort to rename Dewdney Avenue fails at council.

She's been campaigning for change since 2016, inspired by the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report the year before, and she says she is not going to stop now.

"The only thing that I have is perseverance, right. And so whether it was a past mayor or whether it's this mayor, I'm going to still continue," she said.

The renaming proposal is set to be debated when Regina city council meets on June 12.

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