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)

Restoring Indigenous place names rebuilds relationships to land: University of Victoria scholar

Jeff Corntassel says renaming is part of truth-telling process on way to genuine reconciliation

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

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read