I was looking at the map of the City of Prince Albert. It's a map published by Prince Albert Tourism and Convention Bureau Inc. There was one thing I noticed: there are no streets or avenues named after First Nation leaders. Sure there's Grey Owl Avenue and Grey Owl Crescent, but as many people know Grey Owl was as native as I am Irish.
PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. - I was looking at the map of the City of Prince Albert. It's a map published by Prince Albert Tourism and Convention Bureau Inc. There was one thing I noticed: there are no streets or avenues named after First Nation leaders. Sure there's Grey Owl Avenue and Grey Owl Crescent, but as many people know Grey Owl was as native as I am Irish. Considering this is an official map of Prince Albert Tourism one would think a push would have been made a long time ago to name a street or avenue after one of the aboriginal leaders.
There is a huge market for aboriginal tourism in Europe. Germany, without exception, is fascinated with anything aboriginal. Japan, Sweden and Australia are other markets that have taken a deep interest in the culture of Canada's founding nations. Calgary recognized this many years back and their main streets (Crowfoot and Blackfoot) are an example. On a smaller scale and back to their MÉtis roots is the city of St. Albert, Alta., where Riel, Dumont and Lacombe are the featured streets.
But here in Prince Albert - the front yard of great MÉtis leaders like Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont - there is nothing. Not even a back alley. According to the centennial book published in 1966 by Gary Abrams, "The first man to reside where the city now stands was James Isbister, a half-breed trapper and interpreter for the Hudson Bay Company in 1862."
Once again I looked at the city's map and there wasn't an Isbister way, street or avenue. Legendary Cree chiefs such as Big Bear and Poundmaker aren't mentioned in the city maps.
Located North of P.A. is the Wapheton Dakota Nation. You may wonder how the Sioux ended up in the heart of Cree territory. After Sitting Bull, Gall and Crazy Horse wiped out General George Armstrong Custer's cavalry they came to Canada. The descendants of Wapheton are part of the Sioux nation that stayed and established the Dakota nation that is now there. Since Second Avenue leads towards the Wapheton First Nation, wouldn't it be cool if it was renamed Dakota Drive?
Since 40 per cent of the city's population have identified themselves as aboriginal it's important they feel like a part of the community and one way to do this is to highlight one of the leaders after a street. The old residential school, now called Opawakoscikan student education centre, would be a prime example of naming a street after the Cree nation. I think it would be awesome if I can say to someone "I'll meet you at the corner of Cree and Dakota." I appreciate there are buildings like Gabriel Dumont Institute of Applied Science and Malcolm Norris buildings (owned by the Prince Albert Indian and MÉtis Friendship Centre). However, we could do a lot better.
There is a process involved in getting a street named after someone. A letter written to City Hall is the only way. The letter is passed on to a Street Naming Committee which then makes recommendations and ultimately it is the mayor and city council that makes the decision. It would be of the greatest respect if a street were named after a First Nation person that is still alive. The first name that comes to mind is Lawrence Joseph, current chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. Chief Joseph, who still resides in P.A., is a former city councillor and the first First Nation person to act in the capacity of mayor for a major Canadian city. And, we can't forget Eugene Arcand, the first First Nation person to be recognized as a Citizen of the Year.
There are many others - Jim Brady, Anaharo and Roy Bird - who could be considered for the honour. And, it doesn't have to be a street or avenue, it could be a recreational park or one of the city's many buildings.
Ken Noskye's column appears every Wednesday in the Prince Albert Daily Herald. firstname.lastname@example.org