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

Area A Director Ali Grieve (right), Village of Fruitvale Mayor Steve Morissette (front), and Village of Montrose Mayor Mike Walsh (left) held a congratulatory ceremony for Beaver Valley students who are part of the Class of 2021 graduates of J. L. Crowe Secondary at Beaver Creek Park on Thursday. Photo: Jim Bailey
Beaver Valley Grads of 2021

Beaver Valley mayors, RDKB Area A director celebrate their 2021 graduates with gift ceremony

Adrian Moyls is the Selkirk College Class of 2021 valedictorian and graduate of the School of Health and Human Services. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College valedictorian proves mettle in accomplishment

Adrian Moyls is a graduate of the School of Health and Human Services

A volunteer delivers food to families as part of a West Kootenay EcoSociety program. Photo: Submitted
Farms to Friends delivers 2,500th bag of food to families in need

The program services communities in the Nelson, Trail and Castlegar areas

Selkirk College has begun its search in earnest for a leader to replace president Angus Graeme who is set to retire from his position in May 2022. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College seeks community input for president search

Current president Angus Graeme retires next year

A report shows nine West Kootenay communities are have more low-income persons than the provincial average. File photo
Study casts new light on poverty in the West Kootenay

Nine communities in region have more low-income residents than provincial average

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read