Wâhkôhtowin new name of Confederation Park School
- Michelle Lerat | June 19, 2020
When students of Confederation Park School return this fall their school will be called Wâhkôhtowin.
The new name was approved June 16th and will come into effect the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. Wâhkôhtowin is a Cree word meaning “relations/relationships/being related” and is used to describe kinship.
“ is a name that means so much it just doesn’t mean human relations,” said Pete Chief principal of Confederation Park School. “It’s also the relationships we have in all of creation and this is something that we try to teach our children. How we are related and who we are as Cree people.”
Confederation Park School located in Saskatoon is host to the Nêhiyâwiwin Cree Language and Culture Program. There are almost 600 students from pre-k to grade 8 and 75-78 percent are Indigenous.
Principal Pete Chief is a fluent Cree speaker from Onion Lake Cree Nation. He says the school has many Indigenous teachers and most speak Cree. “For children to come into an urban centre where they see so many Indigenous teachers and actually hear the language spoken that’s huge,” he said. “That empowers them.”
Chief says the school also provides students and families with the opportunities to participate in cultural events such as feasts, round dances, and traditional ceremonies.
The idea for a name change began five years ago when a reporter brought up the idea to Pete Chief who was then vice principal.“It is ironic that there was the Cree Language Culture Program ... at a school that goes by Confederation Park on John A. Macdonald Road,” he said.
Chief consulted with the parents, students and school board who all agreed to a name change. He then asked advice from the Elders who worked at the school. They advised him to receive the name through ceremony.
“Because we are going to be choosing a name and it’s going to have an impact on a lot of our families and our students and our communities in Saskatoon,” said Chief. “We to go about this in the right way.”
Chief said the new name is another step in the right direction for Indigenous students to feel a sense of belonging and to see themselves reflected and represented.
Students, parents and the school board all approved of the new name Wâhkôhtowin for Confederation Park School.
“Our board is proud to approve this name change, which is a wonderful example of one of our schools being responsive to its community,” said Board Chair Colleen MacPherson in a press release. “Wâhkôhtowin captures what we want our schools to be for our students and families – a place where relationship comes first.”
Chief says a public ceremony will be held once gathering restrictions are lifted to complete the protocols of the traditional name change.
“I’m glad that the board has approved,” said Chief. “I have to thank the elders that have supported us and all the people in the community that have really supported us in trying to change the name of the school.”