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City to look at Guelph's founding story through an Indigenous lens for 2027 bicentennial

City staff will use the next eight years to learn as much as possible about the founding of Guelph as seen through an Indigenous perspective
20190716 John Galt Tree KA
A plaque at Macdonell and Wellington Streets marks the spot where a ceremonial tree was cleared to mark the founding of Guelph on April. 23, 1827. Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday

The City of Guelph is looking ahead to the Royal City’s two-hundredth anniversary in 2027 and 

When Guelph was celebrating its 190th birthday in 2017, Guelph City Council asked city staff to report back in 2019 about ways the Royal City could celebrate its bicentennial in 2027.

In celebrating Guelph’s 200th anniversary, it will be important to include Guelph’s expanding founding story and allow our learnings from the Indigenous community to influence the celebration, said Danna Evans, general manager of Culture, Tourism and Community Investment for the City of Guelph.

Guelph was founded on April 23, 1827 with the ceremonial cutting-down of a large maple tree. 

“We have a good foundation of the colonial side of history — when John Galt came to Upper Canada and the falling of the tree and those high-level pieces of the founding and naming of Guelph — but not what extent others may have been affected by the colonialism of it,” said Evans by phone on Tuesday.

City staff will use the next eight years to learn as much as possible about the founding of Guelph seen through an Indigenous perspective.

“We are learning lots with our community members about Indigenous history, and founding and belonging,” said Evans. “Eight years from now we will have learned a whole lot more and the community will have learned a whole lot more.”

“It has some good and some bad stories, so we are moving ahead cautiously,” said Evans.

Opportunities to celebrate the bicentennial could include commemorative naming of trails, public spaces and other city assets and public art like sculptures and murals could be commissioned, said a report by city staff. 

City staff also suggested piggybacking on other celebrations that will be happening in 2027, like Canada 160, the 120th anniversary of Scouts Canada and the River Run Centre’s 30th anniversary.

“There are some synergies that we may be able to have to showcase Guelph,” said Evans.

Tree planting, special performances at the River Run Centre and Sleeman Centre and special exhibits at Guelph Museums are also suggested.

It will be important to build on the learnings of Guelph’s founding story with the Indigenous community, said the report.
“Current conversations are deconstructing colonization and expanding the founding story. This will play a role in informing future ideas for events, activities and commemoration,” said staff in the report.

Immigration to the community over its 200 year history should also be considered, said the report.

The year 2017 was the 150th anniversary of Canada and Guelph’s 190th birthday. Evans said the City was able to piggyback on a number of federal grant opportunities in 2017 that may not be there in 2027.

Consultations for the report were made with the Parks and Recreation, Tourism and Community Investment and Heritage Planning departments, among others within Guelph City Hall.

City staff said financial requests for project or event funding will be brought forward in the next term of council, prior to 2027. Staff will monitor provincial and federal grant opportunities as programs are made available.

“Over the coming years, further considerations will be given to a more fulsome celebration plan of Guelph’s 200th anniversary,” said the report.