Five places in New Brunswick used to have something unsettling in common: their names all included the word “Negro.” On Feb. 28, which is also the last day of Black History month, the names of all five places were changed and the word “Negro” was removed, as part of a nation-wide trend to replace culturally offensive placenames.
Negro Lake in Grand Bay-Westfield will be renamed to Corankapone, which is the African name of Richard Wheeler. Wheeler, or Corankapone, is known for bringing other black members in the community of Westfield to Sierra Leone in hopes of a better life.
Negro Point in Saint John will now be called Hodges Point. The new name pays respect to the Hodges family who were black loyalists.
Negro Head has been renamed to Lorneville Head, Negro Brook in Grand Bay-Westfield has been renamed to Black Loyalist Brook and Negro Brook Road has been renamed to Harriet O’Ree Road. Harriet O’Ree is a black woman who lived on the former Negro Brook Road in 1861.
New Brunswick isn’t the only place in Canada that’s replacing names.
The Langevin Bridge in Calgary, Alta. was recently renamed to Reconciliation Bridge. The bridge was initially named after Hector-Louis Langevin, who played a key role in creating the residential school system that saw roughly 150,000 Indigenous, Inuit and Métis children removed from their homes and forced to assimilate into European culture. Many of the children experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
The name Reconciliation Bridge stems from the Truth and Reconciliation Report, which studied the abuse Indigenous, Inuit and Métis children experienced in Canada’s residential school system.
In Port Alberni, B.C., there’s a call to change the names of two streets: Indian Avenue and Neil Street. N.W. Neil, whom Neil Street was named after, was an Indian agent, mayor, MP and a well-known supporter of Japanese internment. Port Alberni councillor Chris Alemany said he believes the street names do not coincide with reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. No final decisions have been made.
Saskatchewan has seen two high school team names changed in as many years. Bedford Road Collegiate in Saskatoon changed its team name from the Redmen to the Redhawks, while Balfour Collegiate in Regina changed its team name from the Redmen to the Bears.
The most recent push for a name replacement is a change from Dewdney Avenue to Buffalo Avenue in Regina.
Dewdney Avenue is named after Edgar Dewdney, who was a lieutenant governor and Indian Commissioner in Canada. Dewdney also played a pivotal in setting up Canada’s reserve system. Dewdney was known for his harsh policies, which included withholding rations from Indigenous people.
Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway is leading the movement in changing Dewdney Avenue to Buffalo Avenue. She said it’s about more than simply replacing a name. “We need to change Dewdney Avenue because of who Dewdney was, the history of who he is, and what he did,” said BigEagle-Kequahtooway.
Dewdney is considered an instrumental person in developing Western Canada, but BigEagle-Kequahtooway said the harm he committed against Indigenous people has been largely ignored. “That history is never shared, it’s just swept under the rug,” said BigEagle-Kequahtooway.
BigEagle-Kequahtooway said replacing Dewdney Avenue with Buffalo Avenue would be a way to promote reconciliation by highlighting the history of Regina’s origins, which includes mass killings of buffalo. “When you talk about reconciliation, it’s about acknowledging the truth of how the city of Regina came to be, and that meant the decimation of the buffalo, and the starvation of Indigenous people and moving them to reserves,” said BigEagle-Kequahtooway.
The name change would pay homage to both Indigenous people and buffalo, according to BigEagle-Kequahtooway. “The least the City of Regina can do is rename Dewdney avenue to something that holds more importance to Indigenous people and the original inhabitants of this area; the original habitants of this area are truly the buffalo,” said BigEagle-Kequahtooway.
A meeting is being held on Monday night at the Indian Métis Christian Fellowship to gather support and start a petition. BigEagle-Kequahtooway said nearly all the feedback she’s received so far has been positive.
A written statement from the City of Regina said, “The City is working with interested parties. At this time it would be too early to speculate on the outcome.”
Although the Dewdney Avenue name replacement is yet to be decided, Regina city councillors recently voted in favour of renaming a part of Tower Road after Glen Anaquod. Anaquod is a late Indigenous Elder, residential school survivor and member of Muscowpetung First Nation. He died in 2011.