Vancouver’s ‘Barge Chilling Beach’ Sparks Conversation About Indigenous Place Names – Smithers Interior News
If you haven’t seen it yet, a wayward houseboat ‘chilling’ on a Vancouver beach is making waves on social media.
The barge ran aground near Sunset Beach after the November 14 river atmospheric event that caused widespread flooding and mudslides across British Columbia will be moved.
The Vancouver Park Board seized the opportunity and temporarily dubbed the site Barge Chilling Beach, a nod to Vancouver’s famous Dude Chilling Park. Every day, throngs of visitors can be seen gazing at the houseboat and taking selfies with the sign.
But the sign generated more than just selfies on Instagram, as some on social media were quick to point out that the beach already had a name — Í7iy̓el̓shn, which means “good underfoot” in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm, the language of the Musqueam First Nations and Tsleil-Waututh. The Squamish First Nation, whose territory extends into Greater Vancouver, speak Sḵwx̱wú7mesh.
“Now that this stupid houseboat has a sign…you CAN’T tell me it’s so hard to get traditional place name signs in towns,” Indigenous artist Ronnie Dean Harris said in a Facebook post.
Someone took the initiative to bring this conversation into the real world by spray painting Í7iy̓el̓shn on the panel. The panel was cleaned, but a few days later it was tagged again.
Black Press contacted the Vancouver Park Board to ask why a barge received a sign within weeks when it takes months – sometimes years – for signs with Indigenous place names to be installed.
Rena Soutar, manager of decolonization, arts and culture for the Vancouver Park Board, said the process is taking so long because there are several factors to consider when it comes to naming a place.
“There are three nations on whose territory we are and three languages. One of the 11 reconciliation strategies adopted by the Park Board in 2016 is the recognition of the sovereignty of Indigenous languages, meaning that nations must have control over when, where and how their language is used.
When the Park Board creates signs with Indigenous place names, it consults with language and culture experts from the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations to ensure the correct name is used in the correct language.
“One of the reasons it takes a while is that the place names aren’t that simple,” Soutar said. “Nations, before colonization, could have more than one name for a place depending on the families who had access to this land, had rights to it and used it. So there’s a lot of consultation to do to make sure all the families agree on the name.
Angela George, director of community development for Tsleil-Waututh, said colonization and the residential school system had undermined the Hən̓q̓əmin̓əm language to the point that there are only four highly conversant speakers and no living speakers alive.
“We are working diligently to restore and revitalize our language…It is difficult with so few resources. And there’s a process that we have to go through that people don’t fully understand. We can’t just throw names.
George said the process of restoring Indigenous place names involves researching the history of how the land was used and honoring that history.
“A place can have a very deep rooted history and use for the people of the land historically and those names have always been there. Names are passed down through our oral tradition and sometimes this is not recognized in today’s world. Our encyclopedias were in our stories, songs, and artifacts related to the lands and waters. »
Restoring Indigenous place names and Indigenous connections to the land will be an ongoing process that will last much longer than the wayward barge stationed at Í7iy̓el̓shn.
“The sign served its purpose and now it serves a good secondary purpose and that is to spark that conversation,” Soutar said. “I observe what is being said in public discourse and all of this will inform our approach in the future.”
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