Park near former residential school renamed for tireless advocate Ted Fontaine

A park in Winnipeg, located next to the site of a former residential school, has been renamed to honour the work of tireless advocate and residential school survivor Ted Fontaine.

On Wednesday, the city announced the former Wellington Park, which sits next to the site of the old Assiniboia Indian Residential School on Academy Road, will be renamed as Theodore Niizhotay Fontaine Park.

Theodore (Ted) Fontaine died in May 2021 at the age of 79-years-old.

He attended the Assiniboia Indian Residential School from the age of seven until his teens. He authored multiple books about the life children faced at the urban residential school in Winnipeg.

He served as the former chief and knowledge keeper of Sagkeeng First Nation. In his later years, Fontaine worked in public speaking to preserve the history and shine a light on the impact of the residential school system.

Fontaine’s widow Morgan Fontaine said the renaming of the park next to the former residential school honours his name and his legacy of freedom and hope for children.

She said the park was a special spot for her husband and his classmates.

“This was a space where they reclaimed their identity. Where they could speak their language. Where they could be themselves. Recapture their true identities, their spirit that still lived in them but had been buried for so long,” she said.

Morgan Fontaine added she hopes the park will bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples together.

Area councillor John Orlikow (River Heights – Fort Garry) said the renaming is a worthy tribute.

“Theodore Fontaine worked tirelessly to share his healing journey with others. This park, located next to the site of the residential school he once attended, stands as a reminder of his lessons and the harms of the residential school system,” he said in a news release.

Along with the renaming, the city will be installing a territorial acknowledgment and a new marker to give more context to Fontaine’s life, background and contributions. This is expected to be completed in the spring. 

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