The power of words
Renaming of Pocahontas Campground
The use of the name Pocahontas is an example of systemic racism and misogyny within the historical naming of places. Beginning in 2020, representatives from the Jasper Indigenous Forum and Jasper National Park began working to change this.
An advisory group of the Jasper Indigenous Forum have been working collaboratively with Parks Canada to find an appropriate name for the former Pocahontas Campground. The Advisory Group and Parks Canada announced the selection of “Miette” as an interim name in the ongoing process to find an acceptable, permanent campground name that properly honours Indigenous cultures and connections to Jasper National Park.
As an interim measure, the name Miette will appear on all signage, correspondence and reservations, and will also be reflected in the name of the area’s warden cabin and hiking trail.
While current park sites are named due to their proximity to the historical Pocahontas coal mine, the use of the name "Pocahontas" is problematic for several reasons:
- “Pocahontas” is sometimes used as a racial slur.
- Pocahontas, as a notable historical figure, bears no direct connection with Jasper National Park or its Indigenous peoples.
- The original naming of the site was done at a time when concerns about appropriation and racism were not considered.
- The narratives of Pocahontas are complex and meaningful; appropriation of this name reflects many problematic aspects of colonialism, violence against women, and racism.
- Visitors to the park are provided little-to-no context for the naming of the site and are likely to casually infer connections to popular American narratives of Pocahontas.
For these reasons, the name “Pocahontas” can be seen as an explicit and overt remnant of systemic racism, and an inappropriate name for Parks Canada sites.
In 1910, Jasper Park Collieries opened two coal mines, one of which was named “Pocahontas.” The name of the mine was derived from Pocahontas, Virginia USA, a highly successful coal-mining community, with the hope that the Alberta mine would one day be equally as prosperous. By the end of World War I, the demand for coal declined. Pocahontas mine closed in 1921; however, some mining activity continued until 1930, at which time the Canada National Parks Act was passed, and resource extraction activities in Jasper National Park were ceased.