New Brunswick

Savage Island renamed after deemed inappropriate

The New Brunswick government has changed the name of an island in the St. John River that was considered inappropriate and discriminatory.

The New Brunswick government has changed the name of an island in the St. John River that was considered inappropriate and discriminatory.

'I feel the term ‘savage’ is not a term that's appropriate to relate to my ancestors or myself.'— Percy Sacobie

The former Savage Island, which is located about seven kilometres northwest of Fredericton, has been renamed Eqpahak, Culture Minister Hedard Albert announced on Wednesday.

The new name was officially requested by Percy Sacobie and supported by Fredericton City Council, six Maliseet chiefs and the provincial toponymy steering committee.

Albert said the Maliseet word eqpahak means "place where the tide stops coming in."

"This place has been an important geographic feature to the aboriginal people for more than 3,000 years," Albert said in a statement on Wednesday.

"This is why we thought that it was crucial to change the name of Savage Island to Eqpahak, as it reflects Maliseet culture."

According to the New Brunswick government, the renaming of Savage Island to Eqpahak is the first time that the province has changed an official name because the name was inappropriate or discriminatory.

Name insulting

Sacobie spent a lot of time on Savage Island when he was growing up, but he said the significance of the name didn't hit him until he was in his teens.

When he understood the name, Sacobie said it spoiled his visits to the island.

"For me personally, I find it as an insult," he said.

"I feel the term ‘savage’ is not a term that's appropriate to relate to my ancestors or myself."

Last April, Sacobie applied for a name change through the provincial department of Wellness, Culture and Sport.

Sacobie said he understands that some people will continue to refer to it as Savage Island.

But he said he's hoping maps and official documents, that include the island, will refer to it by its more culturally sensitive name.

"Some people will probably in their own minds continue to refer to it as Savage Island because that's what they're always known it as," Sacobie said.

"Just like if your name is Joe and you change your name to Carl. People are going to have a hard time calling you Carl."

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