Colonization Road driven out of town

On Monday, the Fort Frances council placed their vote on the final new names for Colonization Road East and Colonization Road West.

Colonization Road West will be Sunset Drive and Colonization Road East will be Agamiing Drive. Agamiing is a word in Anishinaabemowin, and it means “at the shore.”

Council approved these changes along with the report submitted by Cody Vangel, chief building official and municipal planner, that the Town of Fort Frances will not be responsible for any costs directly or indirectly related to the name changes aside from that of the applicable street sign replacements.

These changes will formally take place on Jan. 1, 2022 and the three blue Colonization Road signs will be donated to Manitou Mounds, Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Fort Frances Museum.

While all six councillors and Mayor June Caul unanimously chose Sunset Drive as their first choice for Colonization Road West, it was not the case with Colonization Road East.

The vote to choose Agamiing for Colonization Road East was four to three, with Councillors Mike Behan, Andrew Hallikas, Douglas Judson and Caul in favour. Councillors John McTaggart, Wendy Brunetta and Rick Wiedenhoeft voted against the Indigenous name.

Prior to the council meeting Judson had once again created an online survey for the community in order to have an idea of what names Fort Frances residents wish council would consider for Colonization Road East.

According to Judson’s results, 350 responded to the survey, with 30 per cent identifying as Indigenous. The two top results for Colonization Road East were Agamiing, with 41 per cent in favour, and Nibi, garnering 37 per cent.

Brunetta said she appreciates Judson’s efforts in conducting the survey and providing council a report prior to Monday’s meeting. However, she said while the survey gathered 350 respondents, some of them do not live in Fort Frances.

“Sadly, that really represents only about three per cent of our population,” Brunetta said. “So, it gives us very limited information to work with when making this monumental decision.”

Brunetta said she also solicited limited feedback from residents who live on Colonization Road East. In trying to propose a possible compromise, Brunetta pitched splitting the road in two parts and having the section from Seven Oaks to the overpass named Agamiing, with the remainder being Shoreline.

Behan said he is not in favour of the compromise as he fears that the symbolism or connotation this implies is that Agamiing is not worthy of the main portion of the road, which detracts the town’s goal of renewing the relationship with First Nations neighbours.

While McTaggart also voted against Agamiing and in favour of Shoreline Drive, the reason was different than that of Brunetta’s.

McTaggart said residents sent him emails and texts, some even stopped him on his walks to say they did not support an Indigenous name.

Finally, Wiedenhoeft said he likes Sunrise Drive for Colonization Road East, not only because he got feedback from people who lived along the road who preferred Sunrise Drive, but because it also represents the beauty of nature that occurs along that drive.

On the other hand, Caul, Behan, Hallikas and Judson said choosing an Indigenous name for Colonization Road East shows the town’s commitment to reconciliation.

“I believe this would confirm our commitment to reconciliation and our goal to establishing a new relationship with our First Nations neighbours,” Behan said. “I think to not take this opportunity to recognize and honour the Indigenous culture and heritage that’s such an important part of our area would be a mistake on our part.”

Language resources

For those new to the word Agamiing, and unsure how to pronounce it, according to the Manitou Mounds Historical Site’s Facebook page, “a” in Ojibwe is pronounced “uh” like shut, while the “ii” makes an “ee” sound, making it sound like uh-guh-meeng.

Here are some online resources to learn more about Anishinaabemowin.

Manitou Mounds

The cultural site’s Facebook page is a treasure trove of language information, including a handy pronunciation guide and phrases of the day.

Say it First contains a large collection of language resources. Although ideal for children, it can be a useful tool for anyone looking to learn. Its Youtube channel is packed with read-along talking stories, narrated by fluent speakers.

The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary

The Website is a searchable, talking, Ojibwe-English dictionary, voiced by Ojibwe elders. It was established by the University of Minnesota, and also contains historical photographs, excerpts and other cultural records.