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Downtown Fort McMurray park to be named 'Kiyām Community Park'

Construction has started on 'Kiyām Community Park'. Photo of design courtesy Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

FORT MCMURRAY (660 NEWS) – A new park currently under construction in downtown Fort McMurray will be called ‘Kiyām Community Park’.

Wood Buffalo council approved the name, pronounced Key-yam, at this week’s regular meeting.

The name was proposed by Melanie Walsh, Social Media and Events Coordinator with McMurray Métis and member of the Wood Buffalo Downtown Revitalization Committee.

“This is Treaty 8 traditional territory, home of the Cree, Dene, and Métis people, so I thought in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, the word ‘Kiyām’ would be a perfect name for this community park. A place that kind of had some negative light because of everything that happened downtown,” she said. “It’s going to be okay, just let this park be. No negativity is going to come here, we’re all going to gather, and everything is going to be okay.”

According to Walsh, the word ‘Kiyām’ has different meanings and interpretations depending on the context. It can commonly mean ‘let it be’ or ‘don’t let it bother you’.

“It’s a Michif and Cree word that just encompasses ‘all is calm and well within the world'”, she explained. “It doesn’t mean to ignore turmoil, you just kind of find peace and calm.”

Walsh said local residential school survivors she has spoken to have said that the first thing that was taken away from them was their language, so to have the ‘Kiyām’ word in the park is incredibly meaningful and this will be a chance for people to learn about the cultures that are native to this area.

“Long before any workers were ever coming to Fort McMurray, it was home to the Cree, the Dene, and the Métis, so I think it’s a really beautiful thing that the park is going to honour that,” she said.

“The Municipality is committed to preserving, revitalizing, and strengthening Indigenous languages as part of its commitment to Truth and Reconciliation,” reads a press release from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

Dennis Fraser, Director of Indigenous and Rural Relations for the RMWB, stated in the press release that he is pleased that the organization continues to advance the Calls to Action set out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report.

“Naming this park in a local Indigenous language is an important step forward and something that I hope to see more of as we continue to honour Indigenous heritage in Wood Buffalo.”

‘Kiyām Community Park’ is currently under construction at Franklin Avenue and Main Street in downtown Fort McMurray.

That “negative light” associated with the location Walsh referred to dates back many years. The municipality had plans for a downtown arena project and many businesses in the area were closed and torn down to make way for it.

The arena project was ultimately kiboshed and since 2013, the space has been used for an “eyesore of a parking lot”, said Walsh.

Even plans for a movie theatre complex fell through in 2016, so the downtown committee settled on a community park with interactive elements.

“We’d all like to see more economic development and commercial development in Fort McMurray. I’d personally love to see more local cafes and ‘mom and pop’ shops go up. But with the recent economy and everything, that’s just not realistic at this time,” Walsh said.

Once construction is finished in the Fall, the park is set to feature an interactive water fountain, full-size basketball court, medicine wheel rock garden, spaces for micro businesses, a community event space, and more.

There will also be Winter activities including an ice skating path and Winter warm up areas.

More information on the park and its features can be found HERE.