Decolonizing Public Places and Public Memory: Kingston Ontario

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Nelson, Elizabeth
Indigenous heritage , reconciliation , decolonization , commemoration , settler-ignorance , public memory , municipal heritage , places of public memory , Kingston , heritage landscapes
Since the release of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, municipalities are increasingly addressing reconciliation in their practice, including new engagement with Indigenous heritage and public memory. Municipal perspectives of heritage are frequently colonial and result in Euro-Canadian commemorative landscapes that reinforce official national narratives of history and identity. These landscapes limit the expression of Indigenous heritage and reinforce settler-ignorance. If the goal of creating reconciliatory spaces is to foster dialogue, interaction, and opportunities for conciliation, current municipal heritage practices are insufficient. This research uses Kingston, Ontario as an opportunity to explore municipal heritage practice in the context of reconciliation, and learns from Indigenous peoples what new places of public memory might look like when created from decolonial perspectives. It indicates that there is a need not only for the modification of current colonial commemorative landscapes, but also for the creation of new places of Indigenous public memory that are dynamic, emphasize dialogue and community, and that might create opportunities for conciliation. Decolonizing municipal heritage practice will require a willingness to experience discomfort and vulnerability, the redress of settler-ignorance, and a commitment to creating new relationships with Indigenous peoples.
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