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City changing street name

Use of the word “Squaw” seen as offensive to Indigenous people

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The city is changing the name of a street containing a word considered offensive to some Indigenous people.

The street, currently known as Squaw Valley Court, is located west of Thornton Road.

It will be renamed to Revelstoke Court, a name from the city’s reserve list and one that follows the ski resort name theme in the neighbourhood.

Representatives from the Bawaajigewin Aboriginal Advisory Circle spoke at the Sept. 24 council meeting to thank the city for the change.

“While historically the word squaw was used in a non-malicious manner in reference to Idigenous North American women, in today’s contemporary use, mainly by non-Indigenous people, it is considered derogatory, masognistic and racist,” said Mary George, Advisory Circle president. “We are grateful that city council is moving foward to change the name.”

George said the renaming was a good step forward but more can be done, not just in Oshawa.

By continuing to allow streets, buildings and sports teams in our community to use words such as squaw, ‘Redmen’ or Indian, we are continuing to send the message that racism and tokenism towards Indigenous populations is okay,” she says.

Councillor Amy McQuaid-England suggested that the organization worked closely with the city in the future to help “change more things that might be highlighting colonialism, or overtly or non-overtly support racist points against your people.”

George noted they are a relatively new organization but are very open to an extended relationship with the municipality.

“We are slowly trying to reach and make those connections, and move our awareness of our culture, and our pride, and our language, and our traditions forward,” she said.

McQuaid-England also proposed that members of the next city council be provided training by Bawaajigewin in order to “understand their part in the path to reconciliation.”

Mayor John Henry said he was proud that it was a group of local secondary school students who originally suggested renaming the street.

Each one of those students received a letter on behalf of council and the residents of Oshawa thanking them for doing this,” Henry said. “I’m very proud a group of young people were switched on to see something and help us get to where we are today.”