Naming a park requires much thought, possibly even more than naming a child. Liz John-West, Alberta Avenue resident and community league board member says, “The City of Edmonton came to us one-and-a-half years ago. They were aware we have four to five unnamed parks in our neighbourhood.”
One the many early ideas when looking at naming the parks was to “honour the women who have been taken from our neighbourhood.” John-West says, “These women have lived, played, and worked in our community. They had a whole lot of life before they were taken from our neighbourhood. We want to honour that life.”
Once the committee decided on naming the parks for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), they reached out to additional groups and agencies to better understand the issues.
Early committee members talked with Kate Quinn at Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE), Kathy King from Missing Cara and April Eve, and Medicinespiritdancer from Stolen Sisters & Brothers. Out of these conversations, the Park committee was formed with Alberta Avenue community league board members, local residents, individuals involved in the MMIWG movement, and the City of Edmonton.
“The committee needed to represent diverse voices,” says John-West.
Project co-chairs are John-West and Stephanie Harpe, international advocate for Murdered, Missing, Exploited Indigenous Peoples (MMEIP). John-West says, “The genesis of the project sits at the community league. As more voices come to this initiative, the project will grow and evolve to what it needs to be.” The committee knows this project is meaningful to everyone, especially to the families who have lost loved ones. They are paying attention.
“The project will involve blessing of Elders, as well as community consultation with business leaders and neighbours of the identified park area.”
In addition to inviting diverse voices, the committee sought to create partnerships between the league and other Indigenous leaders before moving forward with any plans. The committee agrees it is paramount to connect with Elders and include partner groups in the ongoing project.
The project will include developing four area parks to honour MMIWG. The main park is located at 121 Avenue and 90 Street, and the remaining parks lie along a path to the west. Some of the groups met at the park in the summer. This very new project, only months old, has already generated a lot of interest.
Bigger ideas evolved as new voices came to the table. The plan is now for a three- to five-year project costing around $750,000. John-West says, “We want to honour Indigenous voices, not just women and girls. There are many non-Indigenous women that have also been taken from us. We want to walk gently and purposefully forward in this initiative.”
Venturing out to tackle this very fluid and ambitious project, John-West says, “We’ve transitioned from naming a park for the women taken from our community to ‘Can we make space within the park to inform the public about the women? Can we make a gathering space for those working in the field as a place for reflection?’”
The project went above and beyond creating a name for a park sign. To find out more, to donate or participate in this project, and to learn about the park blessing ceremony planned for June, visit the MMIWG+ Park page at the league website albertaave.org.
This diverse committee of stakeholders with subcommittees still need volunteers. If you are interested in getting involved, email [email protected]