Manitoba

New name proposed for road leading to Brandon residential school site to honour survivors

Wokiksuye Ċanku (Dakota for Remembrance Road) has been selected as the honorary title for Brandon's Grand Valley Road. New street signs will be unveiled during Brandon's Truth and Reconciliation Week if approved by city council in September.

Proposal would see Wokiksuye Ċanku, Dakota for Remembrance Road, become honorary name for Grand Valley Road

Cars drive through an intersection while it rains.
The Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council has started a process to give the honorary name Wokiksuye Ċanku, meaning Remembrance Road, to Grand Valley Road in honour of the students forced to attend the Brandon residential school. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

A new honorary street name in Brandon will mark the road leading to the area's former residential school site, if the proposal passes one final step next month.

Wokiksuye Ċanku — Dakota for Remembrance Road — is the honorary name being recommended for Grand Valley Road in the southwestern Manitoba city.

The chosen name means a "great deal" to many community members, especially those who attended residential schools, said the Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples' Council's Michèle LeTourneau.

"One elder told me that … it's always very strange for her to go down Grand Valley Road because it's not something that was grand for her," she said.

"I think we all recognize that the residential school experience ... it's a terrifying part of the Canadian past," LeTourneau said. "BUAPC really wants to honour those children that were taken and placed there, and some who never returned home."

The Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples' Council, or BUAPC, voted in favour of applying for the honorary name on Aug. 8, and the request was then approved by the city's planning commission Wednesday.

The final step in the process will be a Sept. 6 Brandon city council vote on approving the honorary name.

A car drives on a country road.
Cars drive down the road on Thursday. 'One elder told me that … it's always very strange for her to go down Grand Valley Road because it's not something that was grand for her,' says Michèle LeTourneau, the community co-ordinator for the Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples' Council. ( Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

The honorary naming process has been in the works for a number of years, said LeTourneau, the community co-ordinator with BUAPC — a committee established in 2010 to advise city council, and which brings together key stakeholders and citizens to address the needs of urban Indigenous people.

"Indigenous people are an important part of our society. They matter just as much as anyone who is not Indigenous," said LeTourneau.

"And I think one of BUAPC's aims has always been that Indigenous people feel themselves reflected in the community they live in."

School operated until 1972

The Brandon residential school, just northwest of the city, operated from 1895 until 1972. While enrolment statistics aren't available for some school years, the number of children forced to attend the school ranged from only four students some years to as many as 200 in others. 

The building was torn down in 2000, and the site is now under the care of the nearby Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.

Brandon's Indigenous council has been working with a naming group to create an appropriate designation for the road leading to the site. The group includes representation from four Indigenous language groups — Dakota, Michif, Anishinaabemowin and Cree.

The naming group met on Aug. 5 to discuss a name for the road, joined by four members of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation's residential school committee.

A signal light has a red stop light with two street signs beside it.
The intersection of 18th Street and Grand Valley Road in Brandon. Grand Valley Road leads to the site where the Brandon residential school stood. ( Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

The group focused on finding a name that honours the children taken to residential schools, as well as the strength and intelligence that already existed in Indigenous culture before residential schools, said LeTourneau.

A key factor was also inspiring people to think of future generations, she said.

"It's sort of this whole view of the past — the far, far past, the more recent past, the present and the future.… It's a complex but full-thought remembrance."

If approved, the official honorary name and street signs are set to be unveiled on Sept. 30, which is Orange Shirt Day, and now known as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The signs will be revealed during a teaching about the former Brandon residential school. There will also be walk to the site that day.

Part of healing, reconciliation: chief

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Chief Jennifer Bone, who sits on BUAPC, said there was unanimous support from Sioux Valley chief and council to move forward on the name change.

"We've always had that good working relationship with with the mayor and the City of Brandon and BUAPC," Bone said.

"Our voice and the opinions that we have and that we share are important and … we matter within this area," she said. "We have that respectful working relationship with with one another."

The honorary name is a great honour for Sioux Valley and the Dakota people within the territory, she said, and "really appropriate for … that area, the whole history."

In October 2021, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee visited Sioux Valley Dakota Nation to learn more about the former Brandon residential school, and work being done to determine whether there are unmarked graves at the site. (Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak/Facebook)

It's also part of a broader move toward reconciliation centred on education, awareness and the important history of Indigenous people in southwestern Manitoba and Canada, said Bone.

She hopes to see a growing understanding in the general public of the challenges Indigenous people face and overcome as society moves toward an era of reconciliation, in order to build a positive future for younger generations.

"I think it's about creating awareness for the general public …to know that history," she said, and "also moving forward with healing and reconciliation."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chelsea Kemp

Brandon Reporter

Chelsea Kemp is a multimedia journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is based in CBC's bureau in Brandon, covering stories focused on rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback with chelsea.kemp@cbc.ca.

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