A St. Boniface-area space may be the next Winnipeg place to undergo a name change, as critics charge Papoose Park incorporates an outdated and offensive term towards Indigenous people.

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A St. Boniface-area space may be the next Winnipeg place to undergo a name change, as critics charge Papoose Park incorporates an outdated and offensive term towards Indigenous people.

"The name brings disgrace to the neighbourhood and the city," reads one anonymous submission to the Welcoming Winnipeg committee.

"The word papoose is now considered offensive. At the time of the park’s naming, it was unsure, but as time evolves, we must keep up with updates. This name is no longer suitable."

The Welcoming Winnipeg initiative — intended to guide the city in adding, naming and renaming historical markers in a way that reflects the city’s Indigenous histories — had received a public request to rename the Comanche Road park in consultation with Indigenous elders and local community members.

After internal discussion, the group is recommending the city’s executive policy committee strip the park of all references to the term and leave it unnamed until a new name is chosen.

"In our initial conversation, we didn’t realize this was going on within our city — how could this be going on for so long?" said Reanna Merasty, chairwoman of the committee of community members. "Thinking of its context as a racial slur, we understood collectively that it needed to go."

Merasty said the etymology stretches back to the Ojibwa word for baby and, while not commonly used in Winnipeg, is considered a slur to other Indigenous groups. Modern dictionary definitions the committee reviewed indicate the term, originally used to refer to Indigenous children or a particular style of baby carrier, has become "outdated and offensive."

After receiving the application for a name change, the committee undertook a two-week public review and received 33 online public responses, nearly 80 per cent of which indicated the name should be changed.

The application did not suggest a new name, but instead recommended a conversation with Indigenous elders to appropriately relabel the park.

A statement to the Free Press from the Winnipeg mayor’s office Wednesday noted, "these renaming projects are important because names and symbols matter."

"Welcoming Winnipeg is aiming to help resolve the absence of Indigenous perspectives, contributions and experiences to ensure they are more accurately reflected in Winnipeg’s stories, historical markers and place names," the statement read.

Council’s executive policy committee will vote Sept. 21 on the motion to strip the current name from the St. Boniface-area park.

julia-simone.rutgers@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jsrutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers
Reporter

Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.