The tradition Indigenous place name of LAU,WELNEW joined the more recent name of John Dean Provincial Park on Mount Newton in 2019. (Youtube screenshot)

The tradition Indigenous place name of LAU,WELNEW joined the more recent name of John Dean Provincial Park on Mount Newton in 2019. (Youtube screenshot)

B.C. scholar says restoring Indigenous place names a step toward reconciliation

University of Victoria’s Jeff Corntassel says it’s a statement of ‘we’re still here’

A scholar at the University of Victoria says the restoration of Indigenous place names has intensified in recent years as part of the reconciliation process, but suggests more needs to be done.

“It opens the door to an initial conversation around places and the significance of places to Indigenous peoples,” said Jeff Corntassel, associate director of UVic’s Centre for Indigenous Research and Community-Led Engagement.

“So it is a necessary, but insufficient condition for reconciliation. It’s part of the truth telling that often precedes what might be called meaningful reconciliation and envisioning a shared future together.”

Corntassel, a member of the Cherokee Nation, said restoration of Indigenous place names represents a reclamation of place with broader implications.

“In a sense, it is a large statement of ‘we are still here,’” he said. “These other European names do not reflect our relationships, our intimate notions of place.”

RELATED: Central Saanich councillor wants road signs to use WSANEC names

The name restoration process has also helped to revitalize Indigenous languages, ceremonies and ultimately, a larger philosophy.

“Our Indigenous knowledge systems are located in place, so restoring these place names are also in a sense honouring our knowledge system and honouring our world views,” Corntassel said. “That goes way beyond symbolic.”

RELATED: Campground near Sidney renamed to recognize First Nations

Toponymy (the study of place names) has generated growing interest in recent years, with several voices calling for greater recognition of Aboriginal place names.

Both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have called for greater recognition of pre-colonization Aboriginal place names.

Notable examples in B.C. include the renaming to Haida Gwaii of the Queen Charlotte Islands, the use of Salish Sea for the waters of Juan de Fuca and Georgia straits, and on the Peninsula, the renaming of Dean Park to include its traditional Aboriginal name, LAU,WELNEW.

Corntassel acknowledged criticism of and resistance to this process.

For example, he has heard concerns that drivers could get lost due to unfamiliar Indigenous road names. Elsewhere, the default signage of local landmarks still reflects colonial naming practices, he said.

“I think people view landmarks as something they can identify with and they are not prone to change those. So there is a real resistance to shifting that narrative. So really what we are talking about is the messy process of decolonizing people’s thinking.”

RELATED: LETTER: Name change erases contribution of man who made campground possible

This restoration has unfolded against larger changes, which have seen entire First Nations and Aboriginal individuals reclaim their traditional names, the long overdue discarding of racist nicknames in professional sports, and ongoing, long-running disputes over access to natural resources.

“All these things speak to the larger efforts of Indigenous peoples to re-assert their self-determining authority,” Corntassel said.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com


 

Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Saanich Peninsula

Just Posted

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

Nelson police say a man attacked two people downtown with bear spray on Wednesday afternoon. File photo
Two people attacked with bear spray in downtown Nelson: police

Police say the three people know each other

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

Most Read