The new principal of Yellowknife’s Weledeh Catholic School wants to change its name to better reflect the Indigenous language from which the school’s title is derived.
Jenny Reid, who took over in the fall of 2018, wants the school to be renamed Wılıı̀deh Catholic School.
Reid proposed the change to the city’s Catholic school board this week, adding she expects the move to cost around $6,000 in alterations to logos and signage.
“We are proposing that we change the spelling of our name to reflect the traditional, Indigenous language of the Yellowknife area: Wılıı̀deh Yati,” Reid told Cabin Radio.
“In the discussions we have had with Elders, renaming this school would be welcome and timely.
“It’s going to take a little bit of money to change some of our signage and stuff like that, but we think this indication of the respect we show for the language will outweigh any monetary cost.”
The school was originally known as St Patrick’s Elementary School before becoming Weledeh Catholic School at the end of the 1990s.
“They decided to change the name to a traditional Indigenous name but the consultant was not from this area,” said Reid, “so the way they spelled the name wasn’t the same as the people from this area would.”
Reid said she only discovered the error late last year when discussing signage with a language teacher.
“She said, ‘The whole name isn’t spelled right.’ It was completely eye-opening to me. I didn’t realize our name was spelled incorrectly, all these years,” said Reid.
“It’s not something that’s going to change overnight, but I do believe it is in line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, so it’s something that is really important to me.”
If the renaming goes ahead, items requiring alteration will include banners, the school logo on its gym floor, and signage around the building.
“The next step will be to talk to the kids about it,” said Reid.
“It allows for some really rich conversations about place names, how places in the Northwest Territories were originally named, and how we have tried to reclaim some of that.”