by Alex Watkins (Staff Writer)
Squamish First Nations recently suggested that Stanley Park – a popular Vancouver landmark that attracts approximately 8 million visitors each year – be renamed Xwayxway, in acknowledgement of the fact that the park was once the home of several Coast Salish groups.
While the proposition has numerous opponents, Tourism Vancouver president Rick Antonson believes that the name change could be extremely beneficial. “I think it is a wonderful name, and the opportunity to be a part of taking that name internationally to help introduce it would be just a wonderful, though challenging, opportunity,” he told the Vancouver Sun. “There is nothing to lose by doing this and much to be gained.”
He went on to note, “I think true and honest good would come from this if the undertaking is done with good planning and timing and everybody gives it their best communications skills. This isn’t something that is intrusive or presumptuous in any way. This is about doing something that can be seen as just but also brings with it a true recognition of what was and can be in the future.”
Digital Journal reports that Antonson believes that using the name Xwayxway could help stimulate tourism, as many tourists are interested in First Nations art, history and culture.
“I can see ourselves as Tourism Vancouver as being advocates for this additional name. This will be something quite comfortable to take on to the world stage as part of the Vancouver story,” said Antonson.
Members of the First Nations community, such as Sechelt elder Theresa Jeffries and Squamish elder Emily Baker argue that the park should be renamed to acknowledge the title it held for the thousands of years in which it was occupied by the First Nations people, rather than keeping the name of Lord Stanley, which it has held for a mere 122 years.
Jeffries asked the Province, “Why do they call it Stanley Park, by a white man’s name, when our ancestors lived here for 10,000 years?”
She also noted that the Queen Charlotte islands have also recently been given back their aboriginal name, stating: “It’s always been Haida Gwaii and now the government finally took back their Queen Charlotte Islands name.”
Vancouver Councilor Ellen Woodsworth told the Province on behalf of Mayor Gregor Robertson that she thought the proposed name change was “an excellent suggestion.” She acknowledged that many of the native homes had been removed from the park over time, and stated that “An aboriginal name would honor the land’s history.”
Robertson himself stated that the name change should be considered and noted that the park could potentially keep both names.
Others, such as Vision Vancouver Councilor Tim Stephenson, advise a more cautious approach. He stated that since the proposal, he has already received several emails from community members in opposition to the idea. He told the Vancouver Sun: “My feeling is that there are a lot of people who hold very strongly to the name Stanley Park and that this is coming really as a surprise. We therefore need to discuss it openly and honestly with aboriginal people. I was quite surprised that some said automatically, yes, we should do it.“
“For most people it is coming right out of the blue. In the end it may turn out to be something Vancouverites would like to have, to happen for all kinds of historical reasons such as the Salish Sea and Haida Gwaii.”
Raymond Louie, Vision Vancouver Councilor, told the Vancouver Sun that he believes that the proposal could act as another step towards resolving aboriginal land claims.
“I think as we move forward we should try to find that opportunity to meld both our history and our present day situation,” he stated. “Stanley Park may present some of that, of providing some level of understanding and ultimately hopefully closure and to proceed on with our many disputed lands that aren’t settled yet in British Columbia.”