O:se Kenhionhata:tie means “the place where the willows are”.
It is the name of the Land Back camp in Kitchener, the traditional name of the Grand River and the inspiration for Willow River Park, the new name for Victoria Park. Bangishimo Johnston, local artist and cofounder of the Land Back Camp, introduced the name after a conversation with a community member at the Camp.
“Somebody came up to me one day and was like, ‘don’t you think the name of the park should be changed as well?,” he said. “We don’t have to actually ask for permission to start referring to a place by different names. Like, we don’t actually have to wait for white people in power in City Hall to do that.”
While the official name of the park remains unchanged, Smoke said the process is likely inevitable but would probably be a long one. Still, the name change has a lot of community support.
“I think it’s also a colonial timeframe. It would just take so long and there would be so much racial violence that would come over you know: the hate, the trolls that come out on the internet, all of that, Smoke said.
“For us, we just call it that. So, everyone does.”
As for doing the work to make the name change official, Smoke said they hope allies would step forward instead of adding more work for Indigenous activists, The process of going to City Council and jumping through the bureaucratic hoops is a colonial one that allies can help take on.
The name change occurred after continued instances of red paint being thrown on the statue of Queen Victoria in the park.