On Monday (June 14), Okotoks Town Council considered a motion to remove the name "Dewdney" from Dewdney Park.
The park, located next to the Okotoks Art Gallery, shares its name with Edgar Dewdney, a Canadian historical figure who has been criticized for his contribution to the formation of residential schools and his use of land and food rations as coercive tools among Canada's Indigenous peoples.
According to the report presented to council at their meeting, the settlement of Okotoks, as well as its post office, were named after Dewdney in 1891 before being renamed "Okotoks" six years later.
Now Dewdney Park remains as the only affiliation the town has with the name Dewdney.
The park was established in 1981 alongside the Station Cultural Centre, with the name being selected as a nod to the town's former name.
Administration recommended the name change be considered in order to aid in Truth and Reconciliation efforts, in this case, to remove a systemic reminder of the residential school system.
While council initially looked at removing the name on the spot, a motion was passed to postpone the decision for six to eight weeks in order to seek further consultation with Indigenous community members, so as to ensure the decision was made alongside First Nations voices instead of on their behalf.
Kathy Coutts with the Okotoks Museum and Archives and Janette Messer, the town's community programs and events manager, had such a meeting just hours before council discussed the matter, and said the community members responded positively to the prospect of the name change.
The local theatre group "The Dewdney Players" also shares a name with the historical figure, though they have no formal affiliation with the town.
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