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Local group pressuring City of Regina to rename Dewdney Avenue, park

Click to play video: 'Local group pressuring City of Regina to rename Dewdney Avenue, park' Local group pressuring City of Regina to rename Dewdney Avenue, park
WATCH: A group in Regina is calling on the city to rename Dewdney Avenue and Dewdney Pool Park to Buffalo Avenue and Buffalo Meadows Pool and Park – Jul 28, 2020

Regina city council is once again hearing calls to rename Dewdney Avenue and Dewdney Pool and Park, saying the namesake represents a controversial historical figure.

To many, Edgar Dewdney’s legacy represents racial discrimination towards the Indigenous community.

“He was a typical colonial administrator. He didn’t know a thing about the Indigenous people of the Prairies,” said Jean Hillabold, member of the Decolonizing Relations group who are advocating for the names to be changed.

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First suggested in 2017, the group is hoping to see Dewdney replaced with Buffalo — Buffalo Avenue and Buffalo Meadows Pool and Park.

Edgar Dewdney was the Indian Commissioner of the North West Territories in the late 19th century, which included Saskatchewan, Alberta and parts of B.C.

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File / Edgar Dewdney.

His policies included withholding rations from Indigenous People to force them to settle on reserves.

Dewdney chose Regina as the region’s capital in 1882 before Saskatchewan was a province.

“The whole history of North America is being reconsidered in terms of the huge amount racism, colonization, imperialism that has gone into it,” Hillabold said.

Read more: Statues and streets named after controversial figures in Canada

“I did a little research into Edgar Dewdney a while back when our group wanted to put on a little play as part of a community picnic. He was very typical of this time, but that means he was horrendous by our own standards.”

The idea to replace Dewdney with Buffalo first came from the Regina’s Buffalo People’s Art Institute founder Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway.

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“We started this in 2016 when we submitted a letter to  a couple of employees who work at the City of Regina in the diversity department,” BigEagle-Kequahtooway said.

“It was an informal meeting that we had with them to discuss some of our ideas for reconciliation and on that list was changing Dewdney (Avenue) to Buffalo Avenue.”

The institute also has a petition circulating on Change.org which has nearly 800 signatures supporting the name change.

“One of our organization’s mandate is to bring back the buffalo mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally,” BigEagle-Kequahtoowa said.

“One way we do that is through traditional Indigenous arts…part of what we do is share the story of how not only are we still connected to buffalo, but we are still using that knowledge we gained by living with them for thousands and thousands of years.

Read more: ‘Harmful legacy’ of Regina John A. Macdonald statue under review

“That connection was severed because of the interference of politicians, people who wanted to settle the west, settle the land.”

The petition is expected to be presented at Regina’s city clerk’s office on Wednesday. The city said a report is the most likely outcome, which will then review what outcomes are possible.

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“That could be plaques, that could be some explanatory pieces along for example Dewdney Avenue if that was changed,” said Jim Nicol, city clerk.

Made up of six members, the city also has a civic naming committee responsible to address any issues regarding street and park naming. Applications to change a street or park name can be sent to this committee.

The city is already feeling pressure to take down its John A. Macdonald statue in Victoria Park and has begun consultation with elders and community members, including artists and cultural groups regarding the issue.

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