Two northern New Brunswick places whose names included a racial slur will have new names starting in January, the province announced Thursday.
At least seven communities or landforms across the province carry names that include a racist and misogynistic term used against Indigenous women.
But now, two of those names will be changed after consultation with Mi’kmaw and Wolastoqey leaders and residents of the northern New Brunswick community, Tourism, Heritage and Culture Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace said.
The name of the community, about 27 miles west of Campbellton, will be Evergreen, and an adjacent mountain will be called Meto’mqwijuig Mountain. A surrounding protected natural area will also be Meto’mqwijuig.
Wallace said Meto’mqwijuig – pronounced Meh-spin-ka-jig — was the original Mi’kmaw name for the mountain and is said to mean “to hear something flowing” or “a nearby mountain stream.”
“All First Nations communities were consulted,” Scott-Wallace said in an interview. “We asked for your participation and your suggestions. So, absolutely everyone had the opportunity to give their opinion.
“We also did a web survey that allowed people to make recommendations and get their opinions, so we’re very happy with what we’ve come up with. A lot of work has certainly gone into it.”
The changes are the first steps the province has taken to change racist place names, something Wolastoqey and Mi’kmaw leaders have been asking the government to do for years.
This work was also pushed by Manju Varma, who made it one of 86 recommendations in a report written last year when she served as commissioner on systemic racism.
Changes should go beyond racist names: Mi’kmaw group
The name changes announced Thursday are “an extremely important part of reconciliation,” said Raven Boyer, spokesperson for Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc., which represents Mi’kmaw communities in the province.
But MTI has emphasized to the province that changing some racist place names is not enough, Boyer said.
“The Province must begin a process to restore indigenous place names throughout our territory,” he said in an email.
“MTI remains prepared to undertake the indigenous knowledge research necessary to support such an effort.”
Scott-Wallace said it’s “possible” her government will go beyond changing the names of racist places.
“But I can’t really answer,” he said, adding that his focus now is on changing the names of places that contain racial slurs or derogatory terms.
Wolastoqey leaders have long called on the province to honor the traditional name of the St. John River by renaming it Wolastoq.
On Thursday, the Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick repeated that call.
“We hope that the province’s work to restore original Indigenous place names will soon extend to Wolastoq, the namesake of our people, the Wolastoqiyik, and the proper and original name of the river that runs through our nation,” said CEO Darrah Beaver in an email.
“This has long been a request from our nation and many non-Indigenous allies. It would be a sincerely welcome gesture and consistent with the sentiments expressed today by the minister and her department.”