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Editorial: Renaming and reconciliation

Peter Shokeir |

Sometimes, we are so habituated to the objectionable that many don’t even notice it even as they drive by it.

Such was the case with the former Pocahontas Campground, which has been temporarily renamed “Miette”, as has the area’s warden cabin and hiking trail.

This came after discussions between Parks Canada and the Advisory Group of the Jasper Indigenous Form.

Pursuit has also changed the name of its former Pocahontas Cabins to “Miette Mountain Cabins” as part of the larger initiative.

According to Parks Canada, the name of “Pocahontas” was introduced to the area in 1908 when coal claims were struck in Alberta.

One of the mines was named “Pocahontas” after a successful coal-mining community of the same name in Virginia.

The name doesn’t seem to be introduced to the area in a malicious manner, but the opinions of the Indigenous population were clearly not taken into account.

The name was retired mainly because the myth of Pocahontas as the princess who hung out with the cartoon raccoon has largely obscured the history of Pocahontas, which involved her being a “stolen sister” who was taken away and brutalized.

Doesn’t exactly put you in the mood to roast marshmallows.

The name also has no connection to the area or the local Indigenous peoples.

To an extent, this same argument could be used against having a totem pole in Jasper, which is a Northwest Coast art, although the artists found a loophole of sorts by making it about how Indigenous peoples had interacted with each other long before European settlement.

“Pocahontas,” however, is a bit harder to justify, as the name comes from the other side of the continent.

In terms of how this rebranding played out, it’s pleasing to how Indigenous people were consulted, and that this was a meticulous process rather than a knee-jerk reaction.

Sometimes, we should be willing to change, lest we normalize indifference.

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