Candidates' election signs outside Sir John Franklin High School in Yellowknife on September 6, 2019. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby says she will not move forward with a private member’s bill to change the name of her Yellowknife electoral district.
Like the nearby lake, the district’s name is usually traced to a Cree word referring to Dene people as slaves. Advocates for removing “Great Slave” say Indigenous languages offer more appropriate options.
In the fall, Nokleby had introduced a private member’s bill – a piece of proposed legislation brought forward by a regular MLA, rather than the government of the day – seeking to change the district’s name.
At the time, she suggested Tindee, a word that she said means “big lake” in Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì, as the starting point for a broader discussion.
But in the legislature on Monday, Nokleby said she had heard “strong feelings” about her proposal and had decided time would run out to complete an informed change before October’s territorial election.
“Some were not open to change and felt the name should stay Great Slave,” Nokleby told colleagues.
“Some wanted the change but objected to the name that I had proposed, which was just a placeholder. Others had wonderful ideas about how the name should be chosen and what significance should be looked at: geographical names were proposed, as well as some that represented the wildlife and the flora of the NWT.
“I have decided not to move forward with my bill in this assembly. I want to ensure that the proper time and consideration is given to this important decision – consideration that is beyond what one MLA can do, and particularly one that is not Indigenous.”
Nokleby said she hoped the incoming territorial government, following this fall’s election, would find a methodology for renaming the district “that incorporates local traditional knowledge and has the approval of the Indigenous governments.”
Last year, the territorial government said work was “well under way” to consult communities and Indigenous governments about renaming Great Slave Lake.