Umfreville Park renaming project in early stages
Mike Lawrence - Staff Writer
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout has taken the first steps towards the renaming of Umfreville Park. This process began with the mayor and council lobbying the provincial government for permission to rename sites that are within the municipality. As Michelle Larose, Municipal CAO, explained in an Oct. 4 media release, “The Municipal Truth and Reconciliation Committee has been discussing how the Municipality can recognize the Indigenous history and culture of our community by renaming sites like Umfreville Park.” She went on to state, “We want to reflect the rich Anishinaabe territory the Municipality is located on. I’m very happy to bring this initiative forward to the Mayor and Council.”
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance had this to say about the process, “It was a recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee and we are moving forward with it. It makes sense to me. We still have the Umfreville trail, (Edward) Umfreville was a historic figure who passed through the area and was guided by the Indigenous peoples who have been here for centuries or longer, so the place names have been with them for a long time. I think it’s very appropriate, especially in this day of Truth and Reconciliation, that we rename Umfreville Park to an Indigenous name, and keep the Umfreville trail as Umfreville trail.”
Darlene Angeconeb is Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. As Angeconeb explained, “The idea arose from discussions on renaming local places to Indigenous names, of names that were deemed appropriate. An example is Squaw Island. The new name chosen for this island is ‘Equay Miniss’ (officially changed on Oct. 27, 2016), which translates into Woman Island. This matches what had taken place in history when the Sioux came to fight the Ojibway. The women and children were hidden on that island. The term ‘Squaw’ is derogatory and needed to be changed.” Angeconeb went on to say, “In the discussion of Umfreville, he was a map maker who documented the local area while he travelled through. He did not have much of a history except to be here on his way through while documenting the area. The renaming of the park will have to take place in consultation with local Elders and Indigenous people.”
Renaming the park has a process that needs to be followed. This includes getting permission from the province, and community engagement. The Municipality also needs to seek name suggestions from the public, create a short list of names, and hold a public voting period. From there, there needs to be council approval, Ministry of Transportation approval, and a community event to present and commemorate the new name of the park.
Mario Rasetti is a local resident with an interest in Sioux Lookout’s history. As he explained, “To me, it’s unclear why they named the park after him in the first place. Even if you go to Umfreville Park right now, the sign says a fur trader, Edward Umfreville, passed here in July 1784. Nishnawbe guides took him from, say, Lake Nipigon, all the way through Sioux Lookout, and all the way up to Ear Falls. It’s unclear that he even camped at Umfreville Park. It just says that he passed through. The Nishnawbe, they were the ones that camped and fished in this area for thousands of years. I just believe that more sites should be named after the Nishnawbe Nation because they’ve been here for thousands of years.”
Larose added, “We are preparing a plan and developing timelines right now. Our objective is to have a new name for Umfreville Park ready to present in the spring of 2022.”
Once the Municipality is ready to receive name submissions, instructions will be provided on the Municipal website, siouxlookout.ca, and through Municipal social media channels.