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Indigenous leaders praise the renaming of Peshkopi Grandin Boulevard to Abinoji Mikanah at the official ceremony

Indigenous leaders praise the renaming of Peshkopi Grandin Boulevard to Abinoji Mikanah at the official ceremony
Indigenous leaders praise the renaming of Peshkopi Grandin Boulevard to Abinoji Mikanah at the official ceremony

 


A busy Winnipeg highway, footpath and byway that for years bore the name of a former residential school proponent have officially been given new names that honor the experiences of children who attended those schools.

The new names for what was formerly called Bishop Grandin Boulevard, Bishop Grandin Trail and Grandin Street were officially recognized by Winnipeg city council at a ceremony at Jules H. Mager Park, just off the trail, on Friday, which coincides with National Day of Indigenous Peoples.

“We are committed to doing what we can to advance reconciliation and honor truths that have been denied or ignored for too long,” said Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham, flanked by councilors Sherri Rollins, Matt Allard, Janice Lukes, Brian Mayes, and Vivian Santos. .

“[The new names] reflect the rich history and culture of indigenous peoples and the restoration of indigenous language.”

A group of six people standing on a stage behind a lectern.
Mayor Scott Gillingham, center, flanked by councilors Sherri Rollins, Matt Allard, Janice Lukes, Brian Mayes and Vivian Santos at the official renaming ceremony Friday. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Bishop Grandin Boulevard is now called Abinoji Mikanah, which translates to “children's street/street” in Anishinaabemowin.

Bishop Grandin Trail took the name Awasisak Mskanw “children's path” in Inimowin, or Cree. GrandinStreet, which runs for a single block from Tach Avenue to St. Joseph Street in the northern area of ​​St. Boniface, is now Taapweewin, which means “truth” in Michif.

The man it was first named after, Bishop Vital-JustinGrandin, pushed the federal government to fund the construction of residential schools in the late 1800s. That system, which Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission labeled “cultural genocide” , saw children removed from their families, stripped from their communities and stripped of their indigenous identities.

Former mayor Brian Bowman pledged to support the renaming of Winnipeg's Bishop Grandin Boulevard after calls from the community. In June 2021, the city's executive policy committee voted to change the name.

A road sign next to a traffic signal reads
City of Winnipeg public works crews installed the first official signs for Abinoji Mikanah at the St. Mary's Street intersection in May, more than a year after council voted to rename Bishop Grandin Boulevard. On Friday, the city and Indigenous groups and elders officially marked the renaming at a ceremony in Winnipeg. (Kevin Nepitabo/CBC)

The city sought feedback from Indigenous people and groups and city membersCommunity Members Committeeto come up with new names that honor indigenous culture.

The city's Indigenous Relations Division invited representatives from Indigenous governments and community-based organizations to form an Indigenous Knowledge Naming Circle.

In March 2023, the city council approved the renaming, and in April of this year, the council officially approved the changes.

The first Abinoji Mikanah signs went up last month.

Elders who helped with the naming process, including Betty Ross, Frank Beaulieu and Joan Winning, attended the ceremony Friday.

Three people standing on a stage in front of a lectern
Elders Joan Winning, left, Frank Beaulieu, center, and Betty Ross assisted in the naming process. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Ross, of Pimicikamak First Nation, recalled “trauma after trauma” of going through four different residential schools growing up.

“They told me: 'Shut up, your language is dirty, you don't matter,'” she said.

Ross said the new names are meant to signify the power and sanctity of first languages ​​and serve as a tool for revitalizing Indigenous voices.

Elder Denis White Bird, a former Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said the spiritual name given to him shortly after birth White Thunderbird was changed by an Indian agent. White Bird, his great-grandfather's name, was registered instead, he said.

A man in a white brimmed hat and an orange shirt speaks into a microphone.
Elder Denis White Bird, a former Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, speaks at the naming ceremony of Abinoji Mikanah. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

“The Indian agent said, 'There's no such thing as a white thunder, you'll be a White Bird,'” he said at the renaming event.

“That's a little story about what happened in terms of the name change, and the name change I think was meant to control people.”

Jennifer Wood, intergovernmental and community relations liaison with the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation, is a third-generation residential school survivor.

“We are at a pivotal moment in our history,” said Wood, of the Neyaashiinigmiing First Nation in Ontario. “Everybody's looking at the truth now. It's about naming major arteries in our cities after First Nations, and I think it's going to reverberate across Canada.”

Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin.
Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin was a proponent of the residential school system in Canada. In 2021, then Mayor Brian Bowman pledged to support the renaming of Winnipeg's Bishop Grandin Boulevard. (Manitoba Historical Society)

Andrew Carrier, vice president of the Manitoba Mtis Federation for the Winnipeg region, said the renaming ceremony was part of reclaiming history.

“The Michif language was born here,” he said. “We were in a dark age, but we've come out and the future is so bright.”

Chief Trevor Prince of the Sandy Bay OjibwayNation said the impacts of the suppression of First Nations culture and identity live on for families.

“There was a time when our people were punished for speaking the language, and there are people who raise their children not to be taught the language because of the fear of what happened to them in a residential school,” he said.

“Today, we're renaming one of the biggest streets in Winnipeg, and I'm very, very proud that it's being renamed to something in our language.”

Gillingham said the renaming is “more than a symbolic gesture”.

“It's a step, an important step, for our entire community, our city, our province, our nation, toward reconciliation, acknowledging the injustices of the past, and honoring the resilience and strength of Indigenous communities,” he said.

Sources

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