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What’s In A Name? (Hint – LOTS!) – Association of the Savary Island Committee (ASIC)

What’s In A Name? (Hint – LOTS!)

Recently the SIVFD hosted a session for their volunteer First Responders and Fire Fighters featuring Drew Blaney, Culture & Heritage Manager with Tla’amin Nation. Two of your ASIC Directors are also part of SIVFD so we listened from the perspective of better understanding and respecting culture and tradition when helping out in emergency situations and also from the broader Savary Island perspective.  Drew was engaging, informative and generous with his time, sharing the history of this region, personal stories of his family, reflections from other elders from the community, and providing excellent resources to learn more and continue our education in a self-directed way. He focused a lot on the importance of language and what the Tla’amin Nation is doing to reinvigorate their language which was almost lost after years of colonization and the residential school system.

Most of the names we all use (without thinking much about it) are names that European Settlers gave to things and places that already had names given to them by Indigenous peoples. An important act of reconciliation is to acknowledge this history and help support the prioritization of Indigenous names back into everyone’s day to day life. ASIC supports this action as one small way to celebrate and recognize the fact that Indigenous people have lived here for at least 7000 years prior to contact. We want to encourage everyone to consider where and how you can start to use Indigenous names for the island and key features on the island – especially those that come with some problematic names. This isn’t about “losing” anything. It is about learning and adapting.  ASIC is meant to focus on representing the needs of the island with respect to key community issues such as safety, the environment and over-use of our often very limited resources. Tla’amin ancestral beliefs are characterized by responsibility to the land as a living thing and centres on reciprocity. Imagine if we kept those sorts of beliefs in mind as we approach our future?

Renaming places in a formal sense often comes with some baggage and complexity, however simply learning a few new words and using these in our everyday conversations as well as informal signage and wayfinding is not complex. Below we’ve provided a few anglicized spellings to start you off. Try it out! the Tla’amin language is a beautifully descriptive one. We have also asked Drew if he might come back to do a larger presentation for islanders in the future, so stay tuned. Note – Tla’amin Nation has additional resources available for language classes and pronunciation help.

Savary Island (two names used):
Ay hos, ihos, or Ayhus (meaning a two headed serpent)
Qaye qwun (meaning fresh water spring, which is also a name to use for the mid-island Spring!)
The west end of the island (The Point):
Thah teq or Tha-tek
Kla Ah Men (meaning a place to head towards/a place of refuge)
Powell River:
Teeskwat or Teekukt (meaning big river, or fish going up the river)

Find out more about these names and pronounciations  HERE and HERE.
This article is also a good resource for the importance of language in terms of reconciliation. There is also a brand new educational video created to celebrate the significance of this place to the Tla’amin people, including why names matter!