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Edmonton City Council approves new name for the former Oliver Community

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The Edmonton City Council has officially renamed the community formerly known as Oliver to Wîhkwêntôwin ᐄᐧᐦᑫᐧᐣᑑᐃᐧᐣ, pronounced We-Kwen-To-Win, which translates to “Circle of Friends” in nêhiyawêwin (Cree). This decision marks the culmination of a nearly four-year effort led by the community to find a new name as a step towards reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

The renaming initiative, which is the first of its kind in Edmonton, was driven by the local community league and received approval from the City’s Naming Committee in August 2023, followed by Council’s approval on February 21, 2024. The process was praised by Mayor Amarjeet Sohi for its inclusivity and respect for history, reflecting a community-wide effort to address past injustices.

The need for a new name emerged from the 2020 Uncover Oliver campaign, highlighting the controversial legacy of Frank Oliver, the neighbourhood’s namesake since the 1930s, whose actions adversely affected First Nations land rights and Black immigration. This initiative represents a commitment to acknowledging and moving beyond the historical harms associated with Oliver’s legacy.

Imran Ahmad, President of the Oliver Community League, expressed gratitude for the widespread support that made this renaming possible. The new name, Wîhkwêntôwin, signifies a forward-looking identity that respects the area’s history while aspiring for a future of unity and respect for the land and its diverse communities.

In 2022, the community league formed a Renaming Circle that included Indigenous community members, Elders, leaders, and representatives from Black and 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities, all of whom were impacted by the legacy being addressed. Following extensive community engagement, the Renaming Circle proposed the new name in spring 2023.

Erin McDonald, Chair of the Naming Committee, emphasized that the renaming to Wîhkwêntôwin represents a significant step towards reconciliation, enriching the city’s collective history with inclusivity and a sense of belonging for all residents.

The city engaged with residents through various methods, including in-person sessions, online submissions, and direct outreach, ensuring broad community participation in the renaming process. The City of Edmonton is set to update its websites, maps, signage, and documents to reflect the new name by January 1, 2025, with a projected cost of approximately $680,000 for these changes. Further costs will be considered during the 2024 Fall Supplemental Budget Adjustment process.

Aligned with the Indigenous Framework and Anti-racism Strategy, Edmonton continues its commitment to fostering safe and inclusive spaces that reflect the diversity and heritage of its residents, marking a new chapter in the city’s journey towards reconciliation and respect for all communities.

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