The City of Prince Albert plans to name three parks in honour of Indigenous veterans Steven Ross, Norman Henderson and Emile Highway.
Mayor Greg Dionne made the announcement during the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) Women’s Commission Remembrance Day celebration on Wednesday at Parkland Hall. Dionne and Coun. Don Cody made the presentation of graphics for the three parks to Highway and Ross, who were in attendance, and to Henderson’s family. Henderson was not feeling well and couldn’t attend.
Dionne personally thanked and congratulated the trio of veterans.
“As part of reconciliation, we have to start action plans,” Dionne said. “We have had the report for five years as a city and so it is time to move forward…. We believe all vets are valuable so we want to thank everyone for what you have done.”
Dionne said PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte helped in the process.
Dionne added that he prefers to see veterans honoured before they pass away. Since the City has so many civic parks without names, as opposed to streets, it made sense to name a few after veterans.
“What is unique about these parks is they are all on the river bank, so all of our vets will face the water,” Dionne said. “I want to congratulate them, (and) I want to thank Grand Council for their assistance.”
Dionne explained that they would be ordering signs over the winter to be placed next spring. There will be events for the naming of the parks. The city will also be honouring Tom Settee at a later date with a park named after him.
Henderson Park is in the West Flat, Highway Park will be in the centre, and Ross Park will be in the East, neighbouring a park to be named in honour of Don Cody at a future date.
Both Highway and Ross were surprised by the honour.
“It totally came out of the blue,” Highway said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
“It definitely was a surprise,” Ross added. “I was not expecting it. None of us were expecting it.”
Ross and Highway each thought it was a great step towards Truth and Reconciliation to name these parks after Indigenous veterans. Both said Indigenous veterans were rarely honoured in the past, and if they were, it was in stereotypical fashion. They view this announcement as a sign things are changing.
“Many of us left residential school full of shame and guilt, (it was) and shame and guilt that didn’t belong to us,” Highway said. “It affected us. There was pain, and for Aboriginal soldiers to put on the uniform… there were people who went overseas and died over there, and they fought under a flag that didn’t always protect them.
“But, things are changing. You can tell, and I can feel it in the wind. It is really great of Prince Albert mayor and city council to acknowledge that fact.”
Ross, who is the Grand Chief of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association, agreed.
“Life is starting to change,” he explained. “Things are starting to change, to evolve. I think it was a good move for the City to do that and we greatly appreciate that. We are thankful.
“It’s a move towards that direction of reconciliation and I think there is a lot of things moving in that direction as well and hopefully they turn out well, they work out well for all concerned.”
Cody agreed that the city was also making great steps to Truth and Reconciliation.
“It’s a very, very good step to start something like this. It’s very important because it tells us that the veterans that fought for our freedom are the first ones that we recognize,” Cody said.
“Now there is others that need to be recognized as well, but at the same time, recognizing the First Nations veterans I think is extremely important and this is a very good first step towards reconciliation,” he added.
Highway acknowledged the involvement of the PAGC and Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations helping to move items like this forward.
The City plans to give names to 12 parks, with four being named after First Nations veterans.
Ross himself said he plans to take a look at the new Ross Park as soon as he can.
“I think I will stop by the park every now and then,” he said.