Brantford elementary school drops Ryerson name in favour of trailblazing Indigenous nurse Edith Monture

·2 min read

Trail-blazing Indigenous nurse and war veteran Edith Monture will be the new face of a Brantford elementary school.

Ryerson Heights Elementary in West Brant had been named for Egerton Ryerson, a 19th-century educator whose views later formed the basis of the residential school system.

On Thursday, the Grand Erie District School Board announced the school would be renamed Edith Monture Elementary School, the culmination of a months-long process that generated 250 name suggestions and considerable public interest.

“In education, we always look for teachable moments, and this has been an incredibly valuable one,” said school principal Doug Ouellette, part of the renaming committee that narrowed the field to 11 finalists.

Students then researched the contenders and made presentations to committee members.

“Not only have students learned more about our local histories, but they’ve also become a part of the process around what it means to honour our commitments and responsibilities to reconciliation,” Ouellette.

The committee ultimately chose to honour Monture, who was born in Ohsweken on Six Nations of the Grand River territory in 1890 and died just short of her 106th birthday in 1996.

Monture was the first female Indigenous registered nurse in Canada, a career that saw her enlist as a volunteer with the United States Army Nurse Corps during the First World War.

Due to her wartime service, she also became the first Indigenous woman and first registered band member to gain the right to vote.

Working as a nurse and midwife on Six Nations until 1955, Monture advocated for better Indigenous health care throughout her life.

The announcement of the new school name comes a few weeks after Ryerson University changed its name to Toronto Metropolitan University to distance the institution from its former namesake.

“The renaming of Ryerson Heights is an important step on our ongoing journey of reconciliation,” said board chair Susan Gibson. “The process was a learning opportunity to help us all critically examine the past and work towards a better way forward.”

The school board said the name change will be fully implemented by the fall, with new signage greeting Edith Monture Elementary’s 800 students.

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator

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