News / Vancouver

British Columbia is a ‘racist’ name and needs to go, says artist

Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun makes the case that it’s time to #RenameBC

A prominent artist says it's time to rename British Columbia.

Courtesy Destination BC

A prominent artist says it's time to rename British Columbia.

It’s not the Queen Charlotte Islands anymore, but Haida Gwaii; the Salish Sea and Kwakwaka'wakw Sea are less-well known attempts to rename B.C. places to acknowledge the presence of first peoples.

A prominent aboriginal artist is now arguing that the name of our province needs a wholesale rethink, and is pushing for the issue to be put to a provincial referendum.

“It’s a colonial, ugly, creepy, Canadiana, racist (name),” said Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. A 30-year retrospective of Yuxweluptun’s work is currently on display at the Museum of Anthropology, which has launched a campaign called #RenameBC that will wrap up this weekend as the exhibition closes.

Some of the suggestions submitted so far through Twitter have included Chuckkopakosah (Twitter user @starbuckbeak writes: “In Chinook Wawa, trade language of old Columbia…it means Sea to Sky”), Hyas Illahee (Chinook for “Great Land", writes Twitter user @LeftCoastRacing) or Klahowya (Chinook for “welcome” or “hello”). Tree Sea and Landfall are two other suggestions.

Yuxweluptun especially takes issue with the “British” part of British Columbia, although he’d really like to see the entire thing go.

“Anything but British Columbia is my preference. We have Salish Seas, I think even calling it the Coastal province – anything that brings it out of British control,” Yuxweluptun said.

“I would rather have a republic. I don’t want the British monarchy coming here and visiting.”

For Yuxweluptun, whose art depicts environmental catastrophes and the clash between arboriginal people and European colonizers, a new name for B.C. would be the first step in addressing current and historic injustices.

“I want them to be changed so we can start to realistically negotiate in trust, in stewardship of this land,” he said, pointing out that 96 per cent of B.C. First Nations still do not have treaties. “If you want to cut down a tree, pay the Indian. If you want a glass of water, pay the Indian.”

What would you call B.C.?

Send your name suggestion to, along with an explanation of why you think it would make a good name.

More on