Above: Grand Erie staff and Edith Monture Elementary School students and staff pose with Edith Monture’s biography, on display at the event.

Edith Monture Elementary School Naming Event a 'Teachable Moment'

THURSDAY, SEPT. 29, 2022


he former Ryerson Heights Elementary School is now officially Edith Monture Elementary School, and an event yesterday at the school celebrated that change with students, staff, the Board of Trustees, community members, the Monture family, Brantford-Brant MPP Will Bouma, and guests, marking too the significance to reconciliation efforts during Truth and Reconciliation Week.

Above: Students take part in the planting of a white pine tree on the school’s grounds following the event.

"As we worked through the renaming process last year and narrowed down the list of community-submitted suggestions, we all had a chance to learn," said Susan Gibson, Chair of Grand Erie District School Board, of the public consultation process that saw approximately 250 names submitted and shortlisted to 11 selections for final consideration. "We’re not the first school board or public institution to change a name in similar circumstances, but the way we went about it – with community input, a learning exercise, and all these family members participating – that showed inspiring leadership."

The school's name recognizes the contributions and legacy of Monture, an Ohsweken-born World War I veteran who was the first Indigenous woman in the country to become a registered nurse, and the first Indigenous woman and registered band member to gain the right to vote in Canada. The school was previously named for Egerton Ryerson, the educator and influential historic figure now considered one of the main architects of Canada's Residential School system.

Above: Staff and guests with the unveiled portrait of Monture.

"It's a fitting honour to be celebrating this naming event in the middle of Truth and Reconciliation Week, and it's my hope that this school stands for generations to come as a symbol of our work as a board to live up to the commitments of reconciliation," said JoAnna Roberto, Director of Education in Grand Erie. "It's important to remember that it doesn't end today or this week; embedding Indigenous knowledge, history and language into our teaching is an ongoing priority as we work to build a culture of learning, well-being and belonging."

The event saw 25 members of Monture's family in attendance, including one of its youngest members, newborn Edith Monture, who shares her name with her great-great-grandmother. Grade 8 students Elaina McNaughton and Zara Hussan took on MC duties, while Rayan Mekouar and Caitlen Ottey made a special presentation. 

"I wanted to emphasize in the presentation that we have a responsibility to be accountable for what happened, and that if we are going to build towards reconciliation, we need to accept responsibility for the mistakes of the past," said Mekouar. "It's important to me that as the younger generation, we learn about what happened and that we create a world where things like this don't happen again."

The event also included an opening and closing address delivered in Mohawk by Tehahenteh Miller, an Indigenous language teacher, Haudenosaunee dancers and singers, remarks from Chief Mark Hill, Elected Chief of Six Nations of the Grand River, Edith Monture Elementary principal Diannah Dean, as well as the unveiling of a portrait of Monture by Tuscarora artist Raymond R. Skye, which will be displayed in the school's entrance way.

"My grandmother would have been absolutely tickled to be here today," said Terri Monture, granddaughter of Edith, who spoke on behalf of the family at the event. "Education was extremely important to her - she saw it as a gateway to getting where you wanted to go in life, and always said that it's the one thing that can never be taken from you."

Grand Erie's multi-year strategic plan includes the collective priorities of learning, well-being and belonging.

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