Welcome to Bawating? First Nations leader calls for Sault to be renamed

The area where the City of Sault Ste. Marie now sits was once known as Bawating, and a local Indigenous leader would like to see the city to go back to its original name.

Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers said such an action would go a long way toward undoing the area's colonial history.

Sayers said the name Bawating refers to the rapids in the St. Marys River. With regard to changing the name of Sault Ste. Marie to Bawating, he said Kitchener, Ont., used to be called Berlin, but was renamed in 1916 because of anti-German sentiment during the First World War.

"The people of that day didn't want to be associated any longer with some of the things that were happening over in Europe," he said. "I don't think there's much difference here. I don't think (anyone) wants to be embracing the colonial history in the area. So, let's turn the page and start fresh."

Sayers said there have been formal discussions on the matter, and he is open to speaking with Sault Ste. Marie city council.

"Just like decisions in my villages, we have to have the leadership onside -- a majority of them onside," he said. "So if any of those councillors, any of the senior people at the city, even the mayor, wants to have discussions, by all means, give me a call."