Annie Smith of the Tsartlip First Nation and Barb Henry of the Pauquachin First Nation bless the sign bearing the name of LAU,WELNEW,AUTW given to the Saanich Peninsula Hospital. The ceremony held Tuesday afternoon is part and parcel of a larger effort to recognize local First Nations. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Indigenous ceremony marks renaming of Saanich Peninsula Hospital

Hospital now bears the name LAU,WELNEW,AUTW or ‘a place of healing’

A local First Nations elder welcomes the renaming of a regional hospital, but also calls for additional measures to recognize Aboriginal culture in the health care system.

“This is a start, but we need to do something more important, and that is to take a look at how we can get people, who work in the hospital to understand not only our language but also our culture,” said Tom Sampson, an elder and former chief of the Tsartlip First Nation. “It’s not just about medicine,” he said later. “It’s being able to go there and help those who are not feeling well, talk to them, encourage them.”

He made these comments after the unveiling of a new sign that gives the Saanich Peninsula Hospital the Indigenous name of LAU,WELNEW,AUTW, as chosen by the WSANEC people and approved by the chiefs of the four local First Nations and language experts. Written in the SENCOTEN language of the Coast Salish people, the name translates to ‘a place of healing’ and pays tribute to nearby Mount Newton.

RELATED: Nurse comes home to ‘dream job’ at Saanich Peninsula Hospital

Sampson, who helped to spearhead the renaming with Jane Fox, Aboriginal liaison nurse, said First Nations had previously referred to the hospital as ‘a place where sick people are in,’ an unwelcoming phrase.

“We didn’t like it, because it doesn’t fit in with the teaching of our long houses,” said Sampson.

“A lot of our people come here to this hospital, and we were trying to encourage them to start using our language for healing because we know why we come here when we are not feeling very well. So we have been asking the hospitals to try using a different way of describing what a hospital is in our language and that is when we came up with that word LAU,WELNEW,AUTW.”

Alana Nest, a member of the Island Health board of directors, said in her remarks that the name reminds of the linkage between wellness and culture.

“Supporting the rejuvenation of the language is an important step in reconciliation,” she said. “We know more work needs to be done, but this is an important first step in listening and understanding what is important to the people of the WSANEC communities.”

The re-naming of the hospital has been part and parcel of a larger process of recognizing Indigenous elements and traditions in local health care, a point physically manifested by the sign’s location near four 15-foot totem poles created by carvers from each of the four nations in the area — the Tsartlip, Tsawout, Tseycum and Pauquachin. Their names also appear on the sign.

Tuesday’s unveiling ceremony started just after 1 p.m. in front of an audience of some 50 people consisting of local First Nations, hospital patients, staff and representatives from Island Health.

Led by Al Sam, the unveiling ceremony featured songs from a Tsartlip First Nation drum group and a blessing ceremony featuring Annie Smith of Tsartlip, Barb Henry of Pauquachin and Patti Underwood of Tsawout.

Tsartlip Chief Don Tom said the sign marks progress. “With this, our families will always be welcome here and to seek healing here,” he said. “It pleases myself and it pleases our Elders to see our traditional language being in our territory. It’s not only good to hear, but also good to see.”

Tsawout Chief Nick Claxton emphasized the strong historical and cultural bonds between the four nations and the surrounding land referenced in the name.

“The land is healing, the language is healing, so I am really happy that it is being brought forward and used to acknowledge that this is an important place too for our people,” he said.

Local MLA Adam Olsen, a member of the Tsartlip First Nation, referenced his own personal history during his remarks.

“This is the place where my niece was born, one of the last kids to be born here in this facility,” he said. “It is the place that we bring our family members when they need help for their health, and it is the place that three of my grandparents have come and spent the last days of their lives.”

Olsen said it is important to see SENCOTEN words re-attach to local places as First Nations and non-First Nations work towards building and re-building relationships.

“I think this is a tribute to all the people that have come together to ensure that no matter how many steps we have taken back, that we are still plodding forward in our efforts to reconcile and to be better neighbours and to be friends and to have relationships,” he said.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

First NationsSaanich Peninsula

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Arrest made after hydraulic rescue pump stolen from temporary Saanich fire hall

VicPD K-9 unit called in to help locate suspect, stolen equipment

Architect plans to revitalize Victoria ‘gateways,’ including Wellburns building

Wood-construction apartments planned for Scott, Wellburn’s buildings

Public tips lead to arrest in alleged random assault on Victoria bus

June 19 incident was recorded by onboard camera

Sidney asking tourists to respect health guidelines

Messaging says Sidney is ‘excited to welcome smart, safe, and respectful visits’

CRD explores option to use Oak Bay Lodge for people who are homeless

Motion asks staff to work with BC Housing, Island Health on possibilities

Horgan says B.C. restart making gains as more people come out of their homes

B.C. announced the easing of more restrictions on businesses, recreation and travel last month

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 7

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

B.C. ports part of data integration project to protect marine ecosystems

The $1.2 M federally funded program will draw crucial baseline data from Canada’s three coastlines

Most Read