Jun. 22, 2022

Putting a new face on our ignominius historic past

Truth and Reconciliation is sweeping the country with more and more entities attempting to put a new face on their history. 

We’ve seen it in Nanaimo with our university and school district looking at erasing the names of many now-unsavory historical figures from our present-day reality. Rest assured, there will be a lot more to come.

Powell River is disappearing from the map, going whole hog with perhaps the most aggressive approach where the community is looking to erase the legacy of Israel Powell who was a major villain in the treatment of Indigenous people in the area. The former Powell River Regional District has already rebranded to qathet Regional District. The change was approved by the province in 2018 after the Tla’amin Nation elders gifted the word “qathet” to the regional district in 2017. Pronounced “KA-thet,” it means “working together,” and it is being phased over a period of time.

The list of organizations undergoing the process is impressive. Aside from the town’s name change, The Powell River Board of Education is in the process of changing its identity. The same goes for the Powell River Regional Hospital District and the Powell River Historical Museum and Archives.

Vancouver Island University is rebranding its Powell River campus to something more in line with the Tla’amin Nation which has been very aggressive in attempting to wipe out vestiges of the past.

The Peak newspaper has done extensive reporting on the impact of the changes. The newspaper printed the written response from the newly-named qathet Regional District by CAO Al Radke.

At the top of mind were things like: domain names; website; email addresses; email address signature blocks; voice mail messages; print ready logo(s) for using in regard to our computers; report templates; supplier announcements; media release and/or ads in local media; internal software/programming that had an outward public facing exposure, for example, iCompass, TV That’s Powell River, Envisio, et cetera; office building door signage; business cards. Many of these would have little or no cost consequence to them other than staff time invested.

“The more publicly-seen items such as office(s) sign(s), vehicle decals, park signage and beach access signs could wait until such time that it was truly warranted. When we purchase something like a vehicle which requires identification, we apply the new name and logo,” he said.

Radke said he consulted the Regional District of Nanaimo, which has periodically looked at a name change, and the costs involved. According to Radke, the RDN suggested a final price tag of upwards of $300,000 for the process.

What is the appropriate price for a clean slate?

And there is a differentiation on who qualifies be erased or recognized. The Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District is going through the hoops of wiping Coal Tyee, a notable Snuneymuxw leader from the past, off the list of acceptables because of his dealings with colonizers in the ancient past. MORE