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Welcome to Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park

A popular municipal park is getting a new name. On Monday night, city council voted 8-1 in favour of renaming Fort George Park to Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park.
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City council voted to rename Fort George Park to Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park on Monday.

A popular municipal park is getting a new name.

On Monday night, city council voted 8-1 in favour of renaming Fort George Park to Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park.

"We are not rewriting or erasing history here, but for the first time acknowledging it," said Coun. Terri McConnachie.

The name change was spearheaded by Coun. Murry Krause, who brought forward the recommendation after what he said was many years of conversation and consideration.

"Part of my conversation when we first formed the 100th anniversary committee was acknowledging that the 100th anniversary might not be a celebration for everybody, especially taking into consideration what happening in Prince George in 1913," said Krause, referring to the forced removal of the Lheidli T'enneh from their settlement at the park by way of the village getting burned down.

The suggestion of changing the park's name created a flurry of discussion in the community, with social media networks and online forums lighting up with residents weighing in on the prospect of the park having a new name.

After wading through all of the feedback, all members of council - with the exception of Coun. Albert Koehler - were on board with Krause's suggested name.

Koehler said he was for changing the name of the park to honour the local First Nation, but was opposed to the word "memorial."

There's too much of a negative connotation with the word, Koehler said, and removing it could make it more inclusive.

The use of the word was deliberate, said Krause, and a request from Lheidli T'enneh Chief Dominic Frederick.

Historians have also suggested that the First Nation's gravesites in the park extend beyond the enclosed area, he said.

Making the change is controversial, acknowledged Coun. Brian Skakun, but it's one that has to be made.

He also said the name change won't affect anyone's enjoyment of the park.

"The grass will still be green, the trees will still grow, the water's going to run in the fountains, absolutely nothing will change the physical aspects of the park," he said.

Many people moved to Prince George to call it home, said Coun. Frank Everitt, and the city should celebrate that diversity.

"This is not a loss," said Mayor Lyn Hall, who also recounted a phone call from a local senior expressing concern over still being able to use the park.

"People for many years, maybe a generation may continue to call it Fort George Park. I think it's incumbent on us."

There's also an opportunity to educate the community at large not only about the history of the local First Nation, but also the pronunciation of the Lheidli T'enneh name, said Hall, who noted he was initially wavering on including the word "memorial" in the park name.

But he cited a comment from McConnachie from earlier in the discussion that really hit home, in that removing the word felt disingenuous as in "we're going to give you a little bit, but..."

There is no final price tag for changing the name of the park. City manager Kathleen Soltis said costs will revolve around changing signs and some printed materials, such as brochures.

Some of those costs will be right away while some will be later down the road, and found within existing budgets, she said.

In addition to the name change, which should be officially announced on June 21 during National Aboriginal Day celebrations, city council also voted unanimously in favour of permanently flying the Lheidli T'enneh flag outside of city hall.