In a step towards reconciliation with the Indigenous community, Creston’s high school has officially been renamed Kootenay River Secondary School.
In June, School District 8 (SD8) approved the removal of the name Prince Charles from the school after local teacher Ki Louie brought the request forward.
“This is not Prince Charles’ story,” he said. “It’s our story. (In our research), we found a poem from a student in 1947 that said they were proud to be a part of this school. They talked about how the next generation would carry the torch forward with their memories of the Creston Valley. We want to carry forward that tradition in an inclusive way.”
During the renaming process, the school was temporarily referred to as Creston Valley Secondary School.
Throughout October and November, the renaming committee conducted public engagement to gather feedback on a new name.
On Nov. 12, the public survey closed with 975 responses from students, school staff, parents, and Creston residents, the latter of whom comprised 39 per cent of the total responses.
The name Creston Valley had the most votes with 68 per cent, followed by Kootenay River at 10 per cent. Other names considered included Central Kutenai and Creston Kutenai.
On Nov. 19, Lower Kootenay Band (LKB) Nasukin Jason Louie and council met with the committee to share their thoughts.
Council acknowledged that either name was a significant improvement from Prince Charles, but had a preference for Kootenay River.
At the SD8 board meeting on Dec. 7, the motion to change the name to Kootenay River Secondary School passed unanimously.
The following day, an intimate naming ceremony outside the school with students and school staff made it official.
“The goal of this process was reconciliation,” said principal Brian Hamm.
“Our goal since the beginning was to create a welcoming name for all students and to reconcile with the Ktunaxa people of the LKB. In order for that to happen, a new name is necessary for a new start. The Kootenay River connects us all to the land and has been the most sacred of spaces for the Ktunaxa people since time immemorial.”
Nasukin Louie was presented with a ceremonial key to the school and asked to unlock the front doors, to usher in a new era of renewed inclusivity.
“This is now your home. You are welcome here any time,” Hamm said to him at the ceremony.