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LETTER: Big stink over changing place names shocking

'Everyone is so quick to cry about the "erasure of history" in the form of stripping titles of honour from violently racist and brutal historical white figures, but always remember: the colonizers did it first.'
letter-sta

In reading recent editions of The Gazette, I was shocked by just what a big stink the whole notion of changing place names is.

First of all, it's the absolute least we can do as a society to take even baby steps towards reconciliation. It's a token gesture that does not require the deep societal change we desperately need. I am white myself, and therefore can only offer an outside opinion, but here's where my thoughts are: naming places after people is an extremely limiting practice. It's a very modern tradition, and make no mistake, it was meant (on a broad spectrum) to alienate Indigenous peoples from their own places and associated traditions with those places.

Imagine if we named places after the features of the land or flora that tend to be characteristic of a place. It would greatly enhance both residents' knowledge of the natural context of a place, and describe the general region so as to help people find a place.

Ray Gibbon Drive, for instance, could easily bear the name Coyote Drive, because coyotes frequent the beautiful fields surrounding it. The old areas of Mission might easily be called Elm Street, for the big, beautiful elms that stand over the houses there.

Many places across Turtle Island bear garbled English versions of their original names. Think Kananaskis, Saskatchewan, etc. Maybe just give their original names back?

Imagine, if we actually co-ordinated with the land's original inhabitants over what places used to be called. Our society at large, Indigenous and settler alike, has lost an incredible amount of value because of the erasure and intentional exile of Indigenous peoples, language, practice, and culture. We tend to think of "history" as something only Europe has, due to thousands of years of spoken and written accounts of events. But we have a collective reckoning we must go through to understand that what is now North America has as equally rich and deep a history as France, Britain, Germany, or anywhere else our ancestors might hail from. It has been systematically and viciously overwritten, erased, and buried, and now we just ignore it because the collective memory of settler society can't seem to reach past the last 200 years, willingly or not.

Everyone is so quick to cry about the "erasure of history" in the form of stripping titles of honour from violently racist and brutal historical white figures, but always remember: the colonizers did it first.

As a person in my late 20s, I dream of a society that can come together and afford the respect and acknowledgement of humanity due to Indigenous people that we so quickly grant to old racists who have been dead for decades, if not centuries. Indigenous people are still here, and these legacies are still actively harming them. It's not about finding every fault with the people places are named after. It's about doing better going forward.

We need to do better.

Ciara Fraser, St. Albert