The school was originally named after a person who tried to erase Indigenous identity.
Now, it’s named after the first Indigenous woman to become a nurse – Six Nations’ very own Edith Monture.
The name change became official last week, when Ryerson Heights Elementary School in Brantford took the name of Edith Monture Elementary School, as the country slowly says good-bye to an era of naming public institutions after colonial historical figures.
Egerton Ryerson is known as one of the original architects of residential schools, which aimed to assimilate Indigenous people into the colonial cultural fabric and landscape of the newly-formed country of Canada, with far-reaching and devastating impacts that continue to impact the socio-economic well-being of Indigenous people across the country today.
The official renaming was celebrated last week with a drumming group from Six Nations.
Monture was an Ohsweken-born World War I veteran who was the first Indigenous woman in the country to become a registered nurse, and the first Indigenous woman and registered band member to gain the right to vote in Canada.
“The renaming of Ryerson Heights is an important step on our ongoing journey of reconciliation,” says Susan Gibson, Grand Erie District School Board Chair and member of the Renaming Committee. “The process was a learning opportunity to help us all critically examine the past, and work towards a better way forward.”
Grand Erie launched the renaming process for Ryerson Heights last fall and, in accordance with board policy, included a 60-day period for community input, reaching across the district for ideas. A total of 250 name suggestions were submitted, each accompanied by a rationale.
The Renaming Committee, including staff and community members, shortlisted the public submissions to 11 selections. Students at the school then had a chance to research the shortlisted suggestions, and their work became part of the committee’s deliberations.
Grand Erie worked to have all new signage and documentation in place for Edith Monture Elementary School this September. The school currently serves 800 students with approximately 70 staff members.
Monture was born in Ohsweken on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve in 1890. She was the first Indigenous woman to be a registered nurse in Canada. Monture volunteered with the United States Army Nurse Corps during First World War.
Because she was a wartime nurse, Monture became first Indigenous woman and registered band member to gain the right to vote in Canada.
Monture was a strong advocate for better Indigenous health care, and worked as a nurse and midwife in Ohsweken until 1955. She died in 1996, just before her 106th birthday.