Following the recent discovery of the unmarked burial site of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., some are calling for changes in terminology used in southern Alberta.
Rosie Digout, an Indigenous woman who has lived in Lethbridge for most of her life, took to Facebook earlier this week to share her distaste for the use of the word ‘Indian’ in the city.
“We need the communities we live in to understand that systemic racism still exists,” she said. “Times have changed, terminology has changed.”
Digout is calling on the City of Lethbridge to consider renaming Indian Battle Park and Indian Battle Heights, one of the first neighbourhoods built in west Lethbridge.
“I would say probably 95 per cent of people I’ve spoken to do agree that the name is outdated. ‘Indian’ is a word that we no longer use.”
She believes a new name should be decided upon by consulting Blackfoot Elders, using more up-to-date terminology.
She also said she hopes signage in the Indian Battle Heights neighbourhood is taken down, as she believes it stereotypes Indigenous peoples.
“When I saw it, I was shocked that we’re still depicting First Nations as a person that wears a headdress and riding on a horse.”
Theodore Provost, a councillor with the Piikani Nation, said since the park was named after The Battle of Belly River, which took place between the Cree and Blackfoot First Nations in 1870, there is a lot of pride and history behind the location.
He said it would be fitting to still acknowledge the battle when and if the renaming process takes place.
“‘Indian,’ that’s the only issue I have,” he explained. “Otherwise, the Blackfoot people are kind of proud of that moment in our history.
“It’s time for a change, and it’s time that we’re recognized for who we are.”
Global News reached out to the City of Lethbridge for comment. In return, it provided the following statement:
“The renaming of city sites is something that has been on the agenda for the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee (RLAC) but takes a very purposeful and thoughtful effort to engage with the right people and communities.
“We understand there is a want from people to hear from the city on this issue, but we understand that we should not be leading this conversation, we should be listening.
“We are open and willing to help facilitate these important conversations as we are committed to moving our relationship forward with our Indigenous neighbours and community members.
“Those interested in participating in this work and conversation are welcome to connect with RLAC as their meetings are open to the public.”
According to the city, the discussion of renaming will be added to city council’s agenda in the coming weeks.