School in Brantford to be named for Six Nations nurse

BRANTFORD — Grand Erie District School Board’s Ryerson Heights Elementary School is set to become Edith Monture Elementary School, honouring the 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,” said 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 plans to have all 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 Corp during WW1. 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.

The school was originally named after Egerton Ryerson, who lived from 1803 to 1882, and was an influential historical figure and educator. His legacy, with respect to the establishment of the residential school system, had a devastating impact on Indigenous peoples across Canada and in the communities Grand Erie serves.

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