RUSSELL – Residents of Russell township can expect to be asked who they feel in their community would be the best fit to be a namesake for their hometown.
The council moved ahead with a decision on July 6, at a special council meeting to officially declare the hunt for a new namesake for their township and village.
The issue of who the area was named after came bubbling to the surface after residents realized that Peter Russell, the original namesake of their village and township was a slave owner and proponent for slavery in the last century.
The agreed-upon motion explained that the Russell name became attached to the area 200 years ago and that Peter Russell was known to have been a slave owner, and was an active participant in delaying legislation that would have put an end to slavery in the region. It went on to say the ideals of Peter Russell did not reflect the ideals of township residents.
The motion served as a start to the process of rectifying the situation by confirming that the township will be rededicating Russell in someone else’s name. A vetting committee will be created to evaluate suggestions.
One of the main points of the motion was that the suggestions from the Russell community would be restricted to Russell Township residents and that the Russell name could be a first, last or middle name.
The name of the committee will be the Community, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. The first step of the committee once it has been formed would be to look at terms and references for the committee.
Added to the committee was an educational component.
Mayor Leroux said, “There is a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths since this has come out and that is where this resolution is going to start shining a positive light again and move on,” he said.
Councillor Saucier suggested the educational component to the committee and the idea was embraced by other councillors.
Councillor Tarnowski who originally came up with the idea of a committee to help the community resolve the name issue was pleased with the decision to go ahead.
He said, “It was all for this from the get go. We have a wonderful community. I think everything is running in the right direction.”
He said the exercise would not cost the township anything and would bring the community together.
“If anything else this becomes a great educational opportunity for future generations of what we did. We found out something that was not what we represent and we did something about it,” he said.