In defence of Maajiwe Nendamowinan

In his article, “North’s new name ignores reality” (September 9, 2019), Michael Lo Giudice argues that “Maanjiwe Nendamowinan” is a bad name for the new building on campus. His main point is that the name is unpronounceable by most students, and so they won’t use the name.

Michael writes that people have already started to call it “MN” rather than the full name or have kept calling it “the New North Building.” He ignores the fact that students do this with multiple other buildings as well.

Rather than call it the “William G. Davis Building,” students call it “DV” or “Davis.” Rather than “Instructional Centre,” students say “IB.” Rather than “Oscar Peterson Hall,” students say “OPH.” These are common short-hand ways of saying names. Not because they’re “unpronounceable” but because we, as students, are lazy.

Rather than Maanjiwe Nendamowinan, Michael suggests naming the building after Harry Smith LaForme. He bases this suggestion on LaForme’s First Nations background and history as the head of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (and, of course, his more “pronounceable” name). However, exchanging a First Nations name for a white name doesn’t honor anyone; it just reminds us of what white people have done to Indigenous cultures.

This suggestion is so aptly metaphorical for colonialism I had to reread the article to make sure I understood correctly. I’m sure it seems very typical of a Liberal to bring up colonialism in conversations like these, but it does seem impossible to avoid.

Think about the names that you’ve found to be more fitting: they’re all white names. Replacing Indigenous names with white names is a form of erasure regardless of whether the owner of the name is white or not. How many opportunities do we get daily to interact with the Indigenous language? Let’s cherish them. If the Indigenous language were normalized instead of pushed back against, maybe we’d have less difficulty pronouncing it.

The next time you need a solution to a problem involving something you don’t know or understand, follow this advice: “You’re in university. Learn.”

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