A park in Winnipeg’s North End has a new playground and new name in the spirit of reconciliation, and in memory of a young man killed there nearly four years ago.
David Livingstone Community School was named after a British colonial explorer nearly a century ago when it opened. Though the school retains that name, the park next door, between the school and the Turtle Island Neighbourhood Centre, was unveiled Friday as Migizi Poonee.
Alexa Rosentreter, whose children attend the school, says Ojibway knowledge keeper Colin Mousseau came up with the name. It translates to “bald eagle’s landing” — an apt description given the school logo already includes an image of a bald eagle.
“It’s inspired by … an eagle that regularly flies overhead in the area over the years,” Rosentreter, who is chair of the parent council at David Livingston Community School, told Information Radio host Marcy Markusa.
“[Mousseau] gave us the meaning that the eagle is a messenger that carries the positive actions and prayers from the community to the creator. The teaching of the eagle is unconditional love and the eagle brings the unconditional love to the community.”
The redevelopment was inspired by a desire to breathe new life into the green space and to provide a tribute to a young man killed there in 2017. Jordan Thomas, 18, was stabbed at the park in December of that year and died.
“In honour of him and the memory of him, we look at the structure and know that he is looking down upon us with a smile and saying ‘thank you for looking after those beautiful children,'” knowledge keeper Connie West-Buck said while giving a blessing at Friday’s ribbon-cutting event.
Rosentreter didn’t know Thomas or his family, some of whom were at Friday’s unveiling, but she remembers vividly the day he was killed.
“It was sad,” she said. “You don’t want to see anyone lose a child, and especially in a school field. I didn’t want people to remember the field for that, so we wanted to make it a safe and welcome place.”
She’s spent the past four years working with community partners on sprucing up the area. In 2019, with financial help from the City of Winnipeg and Manitoba Hydro, trees were planted.
On Friday, $250,000 worth of new playground upgrades was unveiled, thanks to funding from the city, province, the Winnipeg Foundation, Kal Tire, Winnipeg School Division and Merit Motion Pictures, said Rosentreter.
She wants the park to be considered a welcoming place for those in the area who can’t easily make it to Assiniboine Park or other large green spaces.
“To have this … literally outside their living room windows, it just creates good energy,” said Rosentreter. “It’s just meant to be a place of enrichment and to bring communities together.”
There are also plans to add more trees, soccer fields, urban parkour installations, a re-done wading pool pad and more, said Rosentreter.
She hopes the remainder of those upgrades will be done by the time the school celebrates its 100th anniversary next year. Rosentreter is counting on other partners to step forward to help raise another $1.5 million to wrap up the project.
“I’m hoping some momentum can build … and that we can pull the money together, because people shouldn’t have to wait,” she said. “This community as much as any other deserves to have nice things and have them right outside.”
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