News / Vancouver

Siwash Rock needs a new name, says Park Board commissioner

The Stanley Park landmark's current name is considered derogatory by indigenous people.

A landmark near Stanley Park that is currently known as Siwash Rock - a name that is derived from the word savage.

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A landmark near Stanley Park that is currently known as Siwash Rock - a name that is derived from the word savage.

A Vancouver Park Board commissioner is putting forward a motion to start the process of renaming a well-known Vancouver landmark.

Siwash Rock, a pillar-like rock formation, stands near the Stanley Park seawall. The Chinook-jargon name derives from the French word “sauvage,” and has been regarded as derogatory by Vancouver’s indigenous community for years, said Catherine Evans, the commissioner who had put forward the motion.

But like many non-indigenous people, “I had no idea that the name was offensive,” Evans said, until she spoke with Vancouver historian John Akin.

If the motion passes, the Park Board would not rename the landmark. Instead, the task would be taken on by the Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working group.

The group has representatives from the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. The group has been meeting for three years now.

“It has an oversight and stewardship role in Stanley Park and its development,” Evans said.

“There is a good group now to give this motion to. They can either tell what the park board to do in the renaming process, or they may want to rename it themselves.”

Earlier this year, Vancouver city council passed a motion to use more First Nations names when naming new streets or city buildings.

Vancouver’s newest library, nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona, was given a Musqueam name (it means “we are one”). Vancouver’s newest elementary school, currently saddled with the temporary name Crosstown Elementary, is another candidate for an indigenous name.

“It’s a respectful thing to do, to get rid of derogatory names and not use them,” Evans said. “Naming has a tremendous symbolic significance.”

In 2016, indigenous artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun launched a campaign to rename British Columbia as part of a retrospective exhibition of his work. He wanted the issue put to a provincial referendum.

Others have called for B.C. to take a good hard look at historic place name plaques throughout British Columbia, which usually tell the story of European settlers.

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