The street signs for Military Trail at UTSC now include a new Mohawk name, Shontinontowanrnhaka Way, meaning “people of the mountains.”
The addition was made on February 28 and comes from a proposal made by a student and an alumn, Claire Caluag and Mahnoor Leghari, for the Canada 150 Student Fund. The fund gives 16 student initiatives $1,000 in funding each to explore the historic connection between the university and Canada.
Leghari hopes that people at UTSC and in the wider Scarborough community will be “intrigued by the ceremonial name and will want to engage and learn more about its meaning, the Mohawk and other indigenous languages and the Canadian indigenous history.”
In addition, Leghari is hopeful that the signage will inspire passersby to integrate the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action into their daily lives.
The Truth and Reconciliation report was published in 2015 and details the past and current effects that the residential school system has had on Indigenous peoples in Canada. The system saw the Canadian government forcibly remove Indigenous children from their communities and place them in residential schools from 1831–1996 with the purpose of assimilating them into Euro-Canadian culture. Many suffered from sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, as well as intergenerational trauma that continues to impact communities to this day. The report also included 94 calls to action that aim to mitigate the damage done by this system and move forward with Indigenous reconciliation.
Canada 150, a government initiative celebrating the birth of Canada, was criticized by some Indigenous groups, who believed that it was merely a marker of 150 years of colonialism, considering that it marked the beginning of Confederation, but the Indigenous history on the land extends far beyond that.
Nonetheless, according to Janine Raftopolous from U of T Media Relations, the naming project was supported by Elder Wendy Phillips, Elder Cat Criger, and former Director of Indigenous Initiatives at U of T Jonathan Hamilton-Diabo.
Raftopolous informed The Varsity that the Military Trail was chosen to receive a Mohawk name because it is a high-traffic pedestrian walkway and intersects with a “gateway to the UTSC community,” Ellesmere Road.
In addition, Raftopolous wrote that the name, Shontinontowanrnhaka Way, is reflective of the name Scarborough itself, which can be read as “mountain pass,” when taken from the translation “gap-hill.”
Editor’s note (March 10, 1:22 pm): This article has been updated to correct Mahnoor Leghari’s name and position.