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

Daryl Jolly, his wife Kerry Pagdin, their sons Cole Jolly (left) and Graeme Jolly, and their dogs Gracie and Clover. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College arts chair diagnosed with lung cancer, family launches fund drive

Daryl Jolly co-founded the college’s digital arts program

An ambulance waits to pick up an elderly couple injured in a vehicle collision in Christina Lake Monday, June 14. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Christina Lake collision under investigation, say Grand Forks RCMP

No one was seriously hurt in a two-car collision on Highway 3 Monday, June 14

TELUS is proposing to construct a 5G tower at Pople Park. Photo: Sheri Regnier
First 5G tower in Trail proposed for placement in popular park

TELUS has a consultation process open until June 28

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

South Slocan’s Ti Loran is among the recipients of this year’s Neil Muth Memorial Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
Neil Muth Memorial Scholarships awarded to 4 students

Students in Creston, South Slocan and Revelstoke are sharing the honour

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

Lindsay, Isla and Ethan Fischer & Maddie, Everly, Ray and Jessica Pressacc of the Tadanac Residents Association along with Aron Burke (Kootenay Savings Community Liaison) Kootenay Savings file
Kootenay Savings Foundation continues community support

The Kootenay Savings Foundation has once again handed out their twice a… Continue reading

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-week-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

Most Read