Now a Scot is behind a campaign to have the waterway renamed due to the actions of Edward Cornwallis in Jacobite Scotland and his role in occupying the territory which was formerly the home of the indigenous Mi’kmaq people.
Cornwallis was the former governor of Nova Scotia who issued a bounty on Mi’kmaq scalps and also played a brutal role at the Battle of Culloden, violently suppressing the Jacobite rebellion.
Isobel Hamilton, an artist who moved to Nova Scotia from Scotland four years ago, is petitioning officials to change the name of the Cornwallis River, as well as that of a bridge due to be built over it.
She said the original name used by the Mi’kmaqs for the river that flows through the Annapolis Valley – Jijuktu’kwejk – should be restored.
Ms Hamilton said: “Edward Cornwallis was unpleasant in Scotland and then he was unpleasant over here. He had a bounty on the scalps of the Mi’kmaq people to be able to suppress them. It must be very difficult for the Mi’kmaq people who are here to have to live with these place names which mention him every day, especially when they had a name for the river that they used before he even arrived.”
She added: “We feel that it is time to give the river back it’s original name. The province does not need this reminder of Cornwallis and there is certainly no need or desire to commemorate or glorify him.”
Officials from the town of Kentville have already covered up Cornwallis’s name on a poster of a bridge set to be built next year, claiming there was never an intention to name it after him. Instead, they want to name it after Kentville’s longest- serving mayor.
The Annapolis Valley First Nation first asked for a name change in 2011 and last year they submitted a request to GeoNova, the body that governs place names in Nova Scotia. However, there has been no movement from the authorities.
In 2015, premier Stephen McNeil had a sign for the Cornwallis River removed at the request of a Mi’kmaq elder but no further steps were taken to rename the waterway.
Halifax Council, said it would consider the role of Cornwallis’s name in the city, which also has a Cornwallis Street and Cornwallis Park, as well as a statue of the governor.
Kentville’s mayor Sandra Snow said it was not responsible for naming rivers. Neither Nova Scotia council nor GeoNova was available for comment.
The Change.org petition set up by Ms Hamilton has more than 130 signatures.