Push to change name of Colonization Ave. in Dryden, Ont., gains traction
'Are they proud we're oppressed?' Lloyd Napish says Colonization Ave. sends the wrong message
The movement for racial justice that's sweeping the continent has arrived in the small town of Dryden, Ont. where Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents are calling for a new name for Colonization Avenue.
A video made by Lloyd Napish, 32, of Migisi Sahgaigan (Eagle Lake First Nation) pushed city council to publicly address concerns that having a street named Colonization Avenue is counter to its attempts at reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
Dryden's Working Circle committee is tasked with coming up with a "proper process for the sake of ensuring a fair, open and transparent dialogue" on the name change and reporting back to council next month, Mayor Greg Wilson said at a council meeting on Monday night.
Napish is "carefully optimistic" that change will finally come to the street name that has caused him pain since he finished elementary school in Migisi Sahgaigan and had to go to Dryden for high school.
Seeing a street called Colonization Avenue had him asking, "does this town even want me here? Are they proud we're being oppressed? It says, 'don't forget your place.'"
"I've seen the effects of colonization all my life," said Napish, who is the son of a residential school survivor. "And I've been living the effects of colonization my whole life."
Napish said he often posts on Facebook about his views on Colonization Avenue, and decided to make the video as "an educational piece" so others could share their opinions. He went through his old posts to see who had commented and asked if they'd join the project.
When he spotted the name of the local assistant crown attorney, Peter Keen, in his Facebook comments he began to consider "how many people, how many titles can I get to be a part of this."
Keen appears in the short video, as well as the local Catholic priest and a spokesperson for the Dryden Chamber of Commerce, all expressing the desire to see the name changed. A 2020 high school graduate from Migisi Sahgaigan and an Elder, along with several others also share the impact the name has on them.
"I left a lot of the heavy stuff on the cutting room floor," Napish said. "I really wanted [the video] to be so elemental that a teacher could use it at school."
"I would like kids to hear it early enough that they understand, and then they're not asking the same old questions, like 'what's the big deal, colonization is just a word?'"
Napish said the response to the video has been "super awesome" since he posted it on Monday.
"It's so encouraging because you see some of the old guard pushing against it, and they're just being out-classed by the response from younger people," he said of the comments he's seeing on social media.
The societal upheaval of the global pandemic and the awareness raised by the Black Lives Matter movement are creating "a perfect storm" of energy to create change in Dryden, Napish said.