Criticism of SD57's decision to rename Kelly Road Secondary School continues to grow.
In a unanimous decision by the Board of Education, and at the request of Lheidli T’enneh Dayi (Chief) Clay Pountney and Elders, SD57 trustees agreed to take the step forward to truth and reconciliation in renaming Kelly Road to Shas ti, which, in Dakelh, means ‘Grizzly Bear Trail’ or ‘Path.’
The approval hasn't sat well with everyone, with some signing a petition to voice their displeasure with the decision and now some students from the high school are doing the same.
At roughly noon today (Feb. 26), some students stood on the road outside Kelly Road Secondary with signs and chants against the potential new name.
Chants including "KRSS" and "Keep Our Name" were shouted while some driving by honked their horns in support of the students.
After @SD57PG announced a name change last night from Kelly Road Secondary to the Dakelh name Shas ti, students at the school are now roadside chanting “KRSS” and keep the name. The name change has sparked a large debate on social media #cityofpg #sd57 #pgmatters @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/8SCwzjs3Zc— jess fedigan (@jj_fedigan) February 26, 2020
As of 9:30 a.m. this morning (Feb. 26), an online petition has reached more than 3,300 signatures in support of keeping Kelly Road Secondary School’s name as is and criticizing School District 57 (SD57) for not consulting with the public first.
As of the time of this publication, the petition has more than 4,500 signatures.
Dayi (Chief) Clay Pountney and Lheidli Elders Kenora Stewart and Clifford Quaw attended last night's (Feb. 25) board meeting to share stories about the area now known as the Hart Highway, which was at one time, a populous grizzly bear habitat.
“I remember vividly, as a young girl, my grandfather telling us stories of his hunting journey on the land and how it was known as one of the great berry-picking areas and how the berries and vegetation attracted to many bears including grizzlies,” said Stewart.
Trustee Trent Derrick made the motion that the board engage in the process to rename the newly constructed Kelly Road Secondary School to Shas ti.
“We, as a board, have made a commitment to the truth and reconciliation and sealed this commitment in unity with the Lheidli T’enneh in their government system of the Balhats. It was here that we made the commitment to work nation-to-nation and government system-to-government system,” said Derrick.
“In the spirit of the work, what has been presented to us tonight is the opportunity to honour our commitment to move forward. Tonight, we have a chance to honour the long history of the Lheidli T’enneh and make a statement that this board will be different in its relationship with the Lheidli T’enneh.”
Chair Tim Bennett said the board would be kidding themselves if they didn’t think there would be people questioning the change.
“We know that Kelly Road has a history and legacy in this district and that there’s going to be people questioning this decision, but I also believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Bennett.
Bennett added he's looking forward to standing beside the Lheidli T’enneh to help them share the stories and knowledge of the land they presented to the board during the meeting, and engage students in the process of developing a new identity for the building.
“Not everyone will agree and that’s okay because this is a good rebirth for the high school north of the Nechako.”
The board then voted unanimously to approve the recommendation to begin the renaming process, and applause from the gallery immediately followed.
“We always had history in that area and the elders came and shared their stories about it and it turned out very well,” said Dayi Pountney after the decision.
“Now that it’s done, we have to work together to make all of this happen.”
Trustee Derrick, who tabled the motion, said he was excited it was unanimous.
“I think the board has really committed themselves to truth and reconciliation and UNDRIP, and I think this is the first step.”
PrinceGeorgeMatters has reached out to SD57 for comment but has not heard back at the time of publication.
- with files from Kyle Balzer and Hanna Petersen, PrinceGeorgeMatters