amhert street montreal

Montreal is erasing all mentions of one of its famous streets for a very good reason

Say goodbye to Amherst Street, downtown Montreal, and hello to Atateken.

As promised back in June, the City of Montreal is starting to replace all of the street signs for Rue Amherst with street signs that read "Rue Atateken" in honour of Indigenous Peoples.

Montreal's public transportation system, the STM, is also changing the name of a corresponding bus route to reflect the new street name.

Signs for both Amherst and Atateken will remain in place for a while so as to avoid confusion, though Amherst will be crossed out and Atateken remains the legal and official name of the street.

The reason for the change? Amherst Street's namesake, British general Jeffery Amherst, was a really bad guy.

Amherst not only seized Montreal from its Indigenous inhabitants in 1760, but is believed to have supported giving blankets that he knew were contaminated with smallpox to local tribes.

Letters authored by Amherst, later pulled by academics, contain a plethora of disturbing, genocidal sentiments. He refers to Indigenous Canadians as "execrable," "savage," and "vermin," among other horrible things.

In 2017, then Montreal Mayor Denis Conderre announced that the city would change Amherst Street's name as part of reconciliation efforts.

A committee eventually chose Atateken, which is a word that loosely means "brothers and sisters" in the Mohawk language.

"Atateken translates to brotherhood," said Hilda Nicolas, director of the Kanesatake Language and Cultural Centre, to CBC News in a piece published Monday. 

"[A] group of people or nations sharing commonalities like values and beliefs, which could loosely be translated as our relations."

Lead photo by

Valérie Plante

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