There was a bit of excitement around here this week. Prince George changed the name of one of its parks yesterday.
Yesterday morning, the park was called Fort George Park. It's a very pretty park quite near the confluence of the Nechako and Fraser Rivers. It's a good sized park with picnic tables and walking paths and gardens and a band shell. There is also a very small fenced off area that is a First Nations graveyard. The park is called Fort George Park because it stands partly on the site of the old Fort George, a white trading post. Fort George was established at the site of a First Nations village called Lheidli T'enneh, which means "people of the confluence." The Lheidli T'enneh were removed to a reserve to the east, but they didn't particularly want to go and didn't hurry about it, so the Fort George founding fathers burnt the village to the ground. This is a crappy bit of local history I did not learn until just a few months ago and it makes me feel a little sick.
Yesterday evening, though, the park recieved a new name: Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park. This name was suggested by the nation of the Lheidli T'enneh, on whose traditional territory Prince George stands.
It was a bit of excitement because a whole lot of racism raised its ugly head. The protests were variously, "I can't pronounce that!" (You can learn to pronounce Tchaikovsky and fucking Kardashian, I bet you can learn to pronounce Lheidli T'enneh.) "Changing the signs will be expensive! Think of the taxpayers!" (Last week, city council changed the name of another park - The Hudson's Bay Slough - to The Hudson's Bay Wetlands with absolutely no fanfare or protest regarding costs.) "It's been Fort George Park all my life!" (So? When I was a kid, Myanmar was called Burma. We managed to get our heads around that. We can get our heads around this.) And finally, "They're trying to erase 100 years of white history!"
Dear god. If only we could erase 100 years of white history as easily as just changing names...