Saskatchewan

Petition to rename Regina's Dewdney Ave., Park presented at city hall

A petition to rename Regina’s Dewdney Avenue and Dewdney Park and Pool has garnered nearly 600 signatures. The petition, organized by Decolonizing Relations and the Buffalo People Arts Institute, proposes renaming the two locations as Buffalo Avenue and Buffalo Meadows and Pool respectively.

Efforts to rename the avenue and park have been going on since 2017

A petition started by Decolonizing Relations and the Buffalo People Arts Institute proposes renaming Dewdney Avenue in Regina to Buffalo Avenue. (Creeden Martell/CBC)

A petition to rename Regina's Dewdney Avenue and Dewdney Park and Pool has garnered nearly 600 signatures.

The petition, organized by Decolonizing Relations and the Buffalo People Arts Institute, proposes renaming the two locations as Buffalo Avenue and Buffalo Meadows and Pool respectively.

Edgar Dewdney was the Indian Commissioner and First Lieutenant Governor for the North-West Territories, which at the time included what is now Saskatchewan, between 1879 and 1888. In that role, Dewdney was instrumental in setting up Canada's reserve system, withheld food and rations from Indigenous communities, and supported the establishment of residential schools.

Florence Stratton, who is involved with Decolonizing Relations, says honouring Edgar Dewdney with streets and parks is inappropriate.

"Once we know this history, why would we keep the name?" she asked. "It has to be changed. Who would want to honour somebody who engaged in genocidal policies? And if we do continue to honour them, the comment on us is that we are accepting racist and white supremacist policies."

The proposed new names were chosen to reflect Indigenous, rather than colonial, history. 

"Buffalo … represents a connection to the land, identity and culture of the original people, hardships and resiliency, livelihood and strength," the groups wrote in a news release. 

Lisa Odle, another member of Decolonizing Relations, said keeping these place names as-is would not serve an educational purpose for the people of Regina. She said people like Dewdney should be studied in an academic setting, rather than honoured out of context.

"Those names can be taught in history books and taught in balance to show the wrongs that have been done and the impacts they had," she said. "We need a more true perspective of history, as opposed to what those in power felt necessary to share."

This movement to rename Dewdney Avenue has been in progress since 2017. That year, a proposal to rename the avenue was deemed "highly unlikely" by the chair of the city's civic naming committee.

Now, Odle hopes the voices of the 576 petition signatories will lead to a different outcome. 

"I'm sincerely hoping city council will see the need for this proposal," she said. "How can you truly speak of truth and reconciliation when you are not willing to sit down and look at some injustices of history and say 'how can we make amends?'"

The petition will be presented at city hall Wednesday morning.

Regina city clerk Jim Nicol, who will receive the petition, said he is now going to begin the process of determining the best way to pass the petition on to the mayor and council. He expects they will then request a report from the city administration exploring options and implications related to the renaming process. 

"With respect to renaming a road, that is a decision only council can make," he said. "One of the implications they have to look at is, what does this do with respect to all the residents and businesses on Dewdney Avenue?"

Nicol said approximately 2,500 individual addresses would need to be changed.

"Now, I want to be very clear, that's not a reason not to do it. I'm just staying that's something that would have to be looked at," he said. "I think there's a different climate emerging across North America right now, and I don't think anybody would say that nothing will be done."

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