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EDITORIAL: A mountain by any other name would be less racist

It is time for the racist and inappropriate names given officially and unofficially to mountains in the Bow Valley to be changed.

It is time for the racist and inappropriate names given officially and unofficially to mountains in the Bow Valley to be changed.

This is an easy statement to support, especially within the era of Black Lives Matter and a concerted effort to identify and eliminate systemic racism in North America.

But it is not, in fact, an easy task to accomplish.

In 2016, the Rocky Mountain Outlook spoke with the person responsible for the naming of geographical landmarks for the province of Alberta.

They confirmed efforts were underway to rename a ridge on Mount Charles Stewart that has unofficially been provided with a name that is both racist and sexist at the same time. 

This was at the same time as the Stoney Nakoda had submitted a significant request to the province to rename geographical features throughout the region. 

It was also at the same time the Stoney Nakoda applied federally to have Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park officially given its traditional name back – Sacred Buffalo Guardian Mountain. 

But as the Peak Project moves forward with the renaming process now, as Canmore Councillor Esme Comfort pointed out, it is time to call people out who use the racist, misogynistic vulgarities in the interim.

Starting the project four years ago, with two renaming applications for the same peak in the last year being denied by the Government of Alberta, we do not know when this peak will receive an official name.

But what we do know, is we can call out racism when we see it or hear it.

As Coun. Comfort noted during the Tuesday (Aug. 18) virtual Canmore council meeting, people need to speak up.

“It is up to us to call it out every time we see it [and hear] it,” she said passionately over Zoom.

The Canmore-based lawyer leading the Peak Project said the death of George Floyd in America earlier this year sparked important and extensive dialogue surrounding racial inequality.

“For many of us, we’ve been compelled to think about the implicit biases that we all have, and what we should do about them,” Jude Daniels said.

We cannot let the opportunity to address this issue pass us by because the bureaucracy is slow. Black Lives Matter challenges us to dismantle systems of oppression and racist names for landmarks is a real easy way to accomplish that kind of change.

It doesn't stop there either. We can push as a valley to recognize that the names of these places and landmarks are only one and the most recent name for these things. 

We should as a valley support any and all efforts to respect and reflect Indigenous names for places. Let's honour the history and culture that existed here before we did. 

As a valley it was a difficult experience for many when Ha Ling Peak in Canmore was officially renamed. We have already shown collectively we know how to do the right thing and remove racist names from the maps of our community.

This work is not yet done. 



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