For Buddy Prince the one-hour drive from his home community of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation to Winnipeg is a grim reminder of his family’s history.
Not too far outside the community is Colonization Road – a road in the rural municipality of St. Clements.
After years of driving past the road Prince reached out to the neighbouring community to see if something could be done.
“The more I looked at [the road sign] and drove by it the more upset I got because Colonization Road reminds me of my father,” Prince told APTN News.
Prince says his father went to Cecilia Jeffery Indian Residential School in Kenora where he was subjected to abuse as a youth.
He added to some it may just be a word but for many Indigenous peoples it can be a trigger.
“Colonization is, to me, a dirty word and should not be thrown in your face like that.”
Prince asked the council in St. Clements if they would consider changing the name.
After some conversations between leadership in the rural community and Brokenhead a decision was made to start the process to change the name.
“We realized it is not in the best interest of all parties involved that Colonization Road remain there,” said Mayor Debbie Fiebelkorn.
The process will include consultations and discussions with the community’s heritage committee, which will comprise of some Brokenhead members.
Residents have been notified and Fiebelkorn says for the most part the community is on board with the change.
“I did have a couple of people say it’s sad because it’s been that way for a long time but on the other hand we have to do what is right… we want to work collaboratively with [Brokenhead] to make it right so that it’s better for all of us,” she said.
Prince admits he’s surprised how fast the decision to change the name came about.
He believes this move can set a precedent for other municipalities to follow.
“With the two governments working together it shows that reconciliation is a possibility in many ways,” said Prince.
A change will not likely happen for several months due to COVID-19 restrictions preventing large gatherings like consultations but that hasn’t stopped some from taking action.
This week one of the road signs was removed. It is not known who did it.
“If someone chose to take them for a souvenir there’s not really very much we can do about it,” said Fiebelkorn.
Across Turtle Island cities and towns have had to reckon with their colonial history.
Recently in Montreal the statue of John A. Macdonald was torn down and Edmonton city council voted to recognize the land it sits on with the decision to rename wards to Indigenous names.
Brokenhead Chief Deborah Smith says the movement is necessary.
“People are starting to recognize that colonial or symbols of colonialism are clearly outdated,” she said.
“It’s 2020, we certainly need to change that messaging and that messaging needs to include First Nations people.”