Among the many positive stories that emerged during the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 was news that the Manitou Stone – a meteorite considered sacred to many Indigenous Peoples in Alberta – would be ceded by the Alberta government and repatriated from the Royal Alberta Museum to a new prayer centre near Hardisty, Alta., not far from where the stone was initially discovered.
According to reports from CBC and the Edmonton Journal, the Manitou Stone originally fell to earth near the Iron River, and First Nations in the region believed it protected the health of local buffalo herds. As elder and chair of the Manitou Asinîy-Iniskim-Tsa Xani Centre remarked on Sept. 30, the stone's return to its original location is a significant step forward, and worth celebrating.
So what does this have to do with Airdrie? Well, in the mid-1860s, the stone was stolen by Rev. George McDougall, a Methodist missionary. The meteorite was displayed at a college in Ontario for nearly a century before ending up at the Royal Alberta Museum in the 1970s.
The reverend, of course, is the same George McDougall a high school in Airdrie is named after. Other than stealing an Indigenous artifact, his legacy also includes founding the orphanage that would eventually become the Morley Indian Residential School.
This begs the question – why is one of Rocky View Schools (RVS) high schools in Airdrie still named after McDougall? We've asked that question in an editorial before, but in light of the news about the Manitou Stone, our newsroom felt it was worth bringing up again.
RVS, for its part, seems committed to the pursuit of Truth and Reconciliation. The school division launched a new Indigenous Learning Branch this year, and there's a temporary Indigenous art installation in front of the division's headquarters in Airdrie. RVS also hosted many reconciliation-themed events in the lead-up to Sept. 30.
But the poor choice of name at of one of the district's high schools remains a blight that should be rectified.