Edmonton community of Oliver to be renamed Wîhkwêntôwin ᐄᐧᐦᑫᐧᐣᑑᐃᐧᐣ

Changes will be made to the west downtown community starting next January, after city council approves a new name to replace Oliver.

The City of Edmonton has officially approved a new name for the community of Oliver.

The City says the community will now be called Wîhkwêntôwin ᐄᐧᐦᑫᐧᐣᑑᐃᐧᐣ, pronounced We-Kwen-To-Win, a Cree word meaning Circle of Friends.

“This has been an amazing and thorough process,” said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi. “Members of the community took this renaming initiative on themselves, working with area residents and guided by Indigenous Elders. I’m proud of Edmontonians who take the time to learn about our history — the good and the bad — and take steps to try to right past wrongs. My Council colleagues and I are pleased to accept and honour this new name.”

The plan to rename the community started four years ago as part of the City’s reconciliation journey with Indigenous peoples.

In 2020, through a campaign called Uncover Oliver, it was learned that Frank Oliver, whom the community was named after, was considered a distinguished Edmontonian and politician in his time. However, he was also linked to discriminatory practices within the federal government that involved curtailing First Nations land rights and impeding Black immigration.

Due to this, community engagement sessions were held, and the new name was chosen.

“We are taking a significant step towards reconciliation and unity in our city. We want to enrich our collective history with a sense of togetherness,” said Erin McDonald, chair of the Naming Committee.

“By renaming this community to Wîhkwêntôwin, we pay tribute to a legacy of friendship and inclusivity. We acknowledge our past while embracing a future where every resident feels a sense of belonging. This decision will lay a foundation for a more harmonious and inclusive community.”

The City says now that the name has been approved, it will spend the rest of the year making changes to websites, maps, signage on existing facilities, and updates to related bylaws and other City of Edmonton documents, before the official change comes into effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

Changes will also include a name change to the future LRT stop, building and park signage and more, which is expected to cost $680,000.

“We’re really excited to bring this journey to City Council. The support along the way from volunteers, board members, the Renaming Circle, City of Edmonton, Naming Committee, and City Council has been incredible and we couldn’t have done it without everyone contributing,” said Imran Ahmad, President of the Oliver Community League.

“Wîhkwêntôwin showcases our neighbourhood, making a statement of who we want to be while acknowledging the harms of the past. This is a new chapter for our wonderful community, bringing on a name that honours the land where we live, work, eat and play.”

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