Brantford Elementary School drops Ryerson name in favor of pioneering Indigenous nurse Edith Monture

Pioneering Aboriginal nurse and veteran Edith Monture will be the new face of an elementary school in Brantford.

Ryerson Heights Elementary School in West Brant is named after Egerton Ryerson, a 19th-century educator whose views later formed the basis of the residential school system.

On Thursday, the Grand Erie District School Board announced that the school would be renamed Edith Monture Elementary School, the culmination of a months-long process that generated 250 name suggestions and considerable public interest.

“In education, we always look for teachable moments, and this one has been incredibly valuable,” said school principal Doug Ouellette, a member of the name change committee that reduced the number of finalists at 11.

The students then researched the nominees and made presentations to committee members.

“Not only did the students learn more about our local histories, but they also became part of the process around what it means to honor our commitments and responsibilities to reconciliation,” Ouellette said.

The committee ultimately chose to honor Monture, who was born in Ohsweken on the Six Nations of the Grand River territory in 1890 and died just before her 106th birthday in 1996.

Monture was the first female Indigenous registered nurse in Canada, a career that led her to enlist as a volunteer with the United States Army Nurse Corps during the First World War.

Due to her wartime service, she also became the first Aboriginal woman and the first registered band member to be granted the right to vote.

Working as a nurse and midwife on Six Nations until 1955, Monture advocated for better Indigenous health care throughout her life.

The announcement of the school’s new name comes weeks after Ryerson University changed its name to Toronto Metropolitan University to distance the institution from its former namesake. Susan Gibson chair.

“The process has been a learning opportunity to help us all critically examine the past and work for a better way forward.”

The school board said the name change will be fully implemented by the fall, with new signage welcoming the 800 students at Edith Monture Elementary.

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