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Emo’s Colonization Road has a new name

Emo's town council has settled on a new name for its Colonization Road that leaders hope will honour the town's relationship with Indigenous peoples in the area.
Colonization Road - Emo
The intersection of Colonization Road and Highway 11 in Emo. The road will be renamed Neechee Miikanaa, which means “Friendship Road”. (Google Street View)

EMO, Ont. – A new name has been chosen for what's currently known as Colonization Road in Emo, Ontario. Municipal leaders say the change is intended to honour the town’s relationship with Indigenous peoples in the area.

On Sept. 13, Emo's town council voted unanimously to rename Colonization Street to Neechee Miikanaa, which means “Friendship Road”. The name Neechee Miikanaa was chosen by Albert Hunter, an elder from Rainy River First Nation.

The town joins others across Northwestern Ontario that have renamed their own similarly named roads, including Fort Frances earlier this year.

Rainy River First Nation is located a short drive west of Emo. Hunter met with Coun. Lincoln Dunn and chief administrative officer Crystal Grey in the township office, and was told about the need for a new street name.

“I offered Al tobacco and he agreed to come up with some sort of idea for a new name for the street. And then I met with him at his home a couple of weeks later, and he brought back the name Neechee Miikanaa Street, which means ‘friendship road’,” Dunn said. “I think it's great. I think it's very appropriate.”

Emo's council voted to rename the road in 2021.

In its recent meeting, Coun. Harrold Boven noted the street had undergone multiple name changes since it was first built, one being Genie Street.

He agreed with Dunn’s sentiment that a change was long overdue, and expressed his gratitude to everyone who made it happen.

Mayor Harold McQuaker asked if it was possible to have two names for the road, suggesting both Neechee Miikanaa and Friendship Road.

Couns. Lori Ann Shortreed and Dunn responded it would be best to choose one street name, saying it would avoid confusion.

Coun. Warren Toles said he hoped that maps would soon reflect the new name, and noted potential issues for emergency responders, couriers, or people on their commute.

“I hope the powers that be actually make the change on the maps and the directions a lot sooner than they've done before… Some of the couriers can’t find us. They say, ‘Front Street — well that’s not anywhere in our computer.’ And I say, ‘Gill Street’ and they say ‘oh yeah that’s there,’” Toles said.

In the meeting, councillors considered various mix ups that have occurred from changing street names, before agreeing that was just part of the process.

The discussion reflected concerns similar to those raised in other regional communities such as Fort Frances and Dryden in their own debates over colonization roads.

The Emo council hopes to hold a ceremony once the renaming process is complete, to commemorate the new street name.

Local Journalism Initiative/Fort Frances Times