Saskatchewan

Regina woman calling for city to change road name with colonial ties

A Regina woman is asking the city to rename Dewdney Avenue as part of its work to live up to the Truth and Reconciliation process. Edgar Dewdney, who the street is named after, was instrumental in setting up Canada's reserve system.

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway wants Dewdney Avenue to become Buffalo Avenue

'The name Buffalo Avenue is important for triggering that blood memory so that people can remember their cultural identity and their relationship to the buffalo,' said Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway. (Submitted by Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway)

A Regina woman is asking the city to change the name of one of its most well-travelled roads as part of its work to live up to the Truth and Reconciliation process.

Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway has submitted a proposal asking the city to change Dewdney Avenue to Buffalo Avenue.

Dewdney Avenue is named for Edgar Dewdney, a late-19th-century Indian commissioner and lieutenant governor who selected Regina as the capital of the Northwest Territories in 1882, before Saskatchewan was created as a province.

Dewdney was also instrumental in setting up Canada's reserve system and used the distribution of rations, following the rapid disappearance of buffalo, as a device to force Indigenous people to settle on reserves and send their children to mission schools.

"That history is being celebrated," said BigEagle-Kequahtooway, "but to us it was the end of a connection, the end of our way of living.

Buffalo Avenue

BigEagle-Kequahtooway runs Buffalo People's Arts Institute, a not-for-profit organization that works to revitalize cultural activities and traditional forms of knowledge.
BigEagle-Kequahtooway said she submitted her proposal in November and is still waiting to hear back. (Submitted by Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway)

"The name Buffalo Avenue is important for triggering that blood memory so that people can remember their cultural identity and their relationship to the buffalo and to the land, but also for sharing that history with non-Indigenous people," she said.

BigEagle-Kequahtooway is hoping the city will make a few other changes as well. She wants to see 16 boulders in the shape of a buffalo, with plaques recalling Indigenous history.

She also wants the city to build the world's largest buffalo sculpture "somewhere near the entrance of Regina along the highway."

BigEagle-Kequahtooway is hoping these projects will help Regina shed its "Pile of Bones" nickname, which, for her, celebrates "the end of our food chain, the end of our way of healthy living."

However, BigEagle-Kequahtooway stressed that changing Dewdney Avenue is the most important aspect of her proposal and the one the people she's talked to want to see most.

'It likely won't go through,' says city spokeswoman

"This would be a major undertaking," said the chair of Regina's Civic Naming Committee, Dana Turgeon.

The proposal would have to go before city council, be reviewed by administration, and everyone living on Dewdney Avenue would have to be consulted.

While Turgeon was not familiar with BigEagle-Kequahtooway's proposal, she said it was extremely doubtful that Dewdney Avenue would have a new name any time soon, despite its controversial history.
'In this case, because the change would be so dramatic, it's not likely people would acquiesce to this.' (submitted by Dana Turgeon)

"If even one person on the block complains it just doesn't go anywhere ... and in this case, because the change would be so dramatic, it's not likely people would acquiesce to this," she said.

Turgeon also said it's "highly unlikely that [the name] 'buffalo' would be selected for use." That's because the city already has a "Buffalo Trail" and it's trying to limit streets with similar names, she said.

That's why, for Turgeon, "it likely won't go through."

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