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Smallpox-laced blankets no reason to change Amherst name: Parks Canada

Painting of General Jeffery Amherst by Thomas Gainsborough,circa 1785.
Painting of General Jeffery Amherst by Thomas Gainsborough,circa 1785.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Parks Canada remains adamant about keeping a controversial British general’s name on a national park in P.E.I.

John Joe Sark, a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation traditional government, is strongly urging the name of General Jeffery Amherst be scrubbed from Port-la-Joye-Fort Amherst historic site.

Sark recently handed in his Order of P.E.I. in protest of the province failing to push Parks Canada to remove the name of the military officer who wanted to kill aboriginal people with smallpox.

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Sark calls Amherst a tyrant.

Parks Canada, however, appears unmoved by the argument.

“It is important to note that the site does not commemorate or celebrate the actions of Jeffery Amherst,’’ the agency stated in an email to The Guardian.

“The historic place names attached to the site commemorate events that took place there while it served as the seat of government for French and then British colonial governments and was known as “Port-la-Joye’’ and then “Fort Amherst’’.

Parks Canada says it recognizes the invaluable contributions of indigenous people from establishing and conserving heritage places to enhancing visitor experience by sharing stories and cultural traditions.

“The Agency is committed to developing a system of national heritage places that recognizes indigenous traditions, cultures and contributions to Canada’s heritage,’’ states Parks Canada.

“The possible addition of a Mi’kmaq name to the site’s official name would help recognize and honour the important contribution to the Mi’kmaq to the rich history of the area.’’

Parks Canada is currently working with the Mi’kmaq in P.E.I. to determine if there is a historic Mi’kmaq name for Rocky Point, the location of Point-la-Joie-Fort Amherst.

Parks Canada will report back to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HMSMBC). If a suitable name is identified, notes the agency, the HSMBC will consider whether the official name of the site should be modified to include the Mi’kmaq place name.

“In addition,’’ adds Parks Canada, “it should be noted that additional interpretation at Port-la-Joye-Fort Amherst National Historic Site includes a broader story with messaging around the Mi’kmaq history of the site. This includes the installation of new interpretive panels which explain the many layers of history found at the site.’’

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