Edmonton’s Oliver School renamed wîhkwêntôwin School

Oliver School in Edmonton Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Wes Rosa, Global News

Three-and-a-half years after launching the process of renaming a school in the city’s core, Edmonton Public Schools has unveiled the new name.

In the fall of 2020, Edmonton Public School Board trustees voted in favour of renaming Oliver School.

On Tuesday, the board revealed it will be renamed wîhkwêntôwin School (pronounced we-kwen-to-win).

wîhkwêntôwin is a Cree word that can be translated into English as “circle of friends.”

Click to play video: 'EPSB moves forward with renaming Dan Knott and Oliver schools'
EPSB moves forward with renaming Dan Knott and Oliver schools

The neighbourhood to the west of downtown Edmonton, where the school is located, was recently renamed wîhkwêntôwin by the city following a renaming process led by the community league.

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The school board said students, staff and families have been engaged with during community consultation conducted by the community league, and feel wîhkwêntôwin reflects the values of the school community.

“We are so pleased to make this announcement and for the school to share the same name as the community it calls home,” Edmonton Public Schools’ board chair Julie Kusiek said in a statement.

“We appreciate the work of the wîhkwêntôwin Community League to rename the neighbourhood through their ‘Uncover Oliver’ campaign, and for including the school community in that process
through classroom activities.”

Click to play video: 'Push to rename central Edmonton neighbourhood'
Push to rename central Edmonton neighbourhood

For the Oliver community, the conversation to change the central Edmonton neighbourhood’s name started in 2017, when anti-racism rallies were held across North America in response to the events in Charlottesville, Va.

A campaign called #UncoverOliver was launched to bring to light the history of the man for which the neighbourhood and school was named.

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Working with the Indigenous community, the community league started the #UncoverOliver campaign to share their findings on the history of Frank Oliver.

Oliver was a journalist and member of Parliament who was the co-founder of the Edmonton Bulletin, but the community league said some of his actions are the reason it is pushing for the renaming of the area.

Click to play video: 'Oliver residents take their neighbourhood’s namesake to task'
Oliver residents take their neighbourhood’s namesake to task

The community league discovered Oliver was actively involved in chasing the Papaschase and the Michel Bands from their land, and used his newspaper to perpetuate negative stereotypes around Indigenous Peoples.

He also used his position as an MP to put forward anti-immigration policies that added preference to people of certain races.

EPSB said online and digital updates are underway, and the rollout of new signage and other changes at the school will take place over the next few months.


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