QUESTIONS & CONVERSATION
We believe in compassionate conversations that help us move toward respect and inclusion.
We hope this section informs, raises awareness, and supports you in meaningful conversations with family, friends, colleagues, strangers, and other folks in your life.
Have a question, definition, and/or resource you would like to see on the list?
Please email us at email@example.com
Also see: the FAQ page of the Joint Working Group (read more here)
Why does the name change of the City currently known as Powell River matter?
Changing the name of Powell River reflects our shared commitment, as governments, communities, and individuals, to caring and respectful relationships, truth and reconciliation in action, and to create a better future together. While we don't yet know what the new name will be, we do know that renaming also benefits all peoples now and in the future. It helps us all live intentionally in right relationship, mutual respect, and honour in the Tla'amin territories - in spirit and action of truth and reconciliation.
Place-names, before colonization, illustrate “deep connection to land and reflects the area’s cultural significance. It is important to consider the histories of place names, appreciating where they come from, what they mean, and what they can teach us about our environment (…) renaming holds the potential to acknowledge Indigenous history, celebrate Indigenous resilience and move forward together in a spirit of reconciliation”
- Johnson-sɛƛakəs and Kirsten Van’t Schip, 2021
Tla'amin Nation has had place names for all the areas in this region since time immemorial. As settlers arrived, they replaced existing place names with personal names (people they considered important or of status). This act is deliberate and part of harmful practices, laws, and policies that intend to assimilate Indigenous peoples; it is part of settler-colonialism (occupation of another Nation’s lands, imposing the colonizer’s laws, language, customs, and economic systems to gain dominance and benefit from resources). Powell is no exception – he was a government official who did not live or work in this area and developed and encouraged policies, laws, and programs that harmed Indigenous peoples. Memorializing this individual is inconsistent with our community values and shared agreements.
Given this, the question might more appropriately be: Why would we want to hold onto this name?
“In the spirit of reconciliation and qathet (working together), let’s find a more respectful and inclusive name that is more reflective of both the oral history of these lands and the present-day collaborative communities.”
- John Hackett, hegus for Tla'amin Nation, June 2021
How did the name change process begin?
At the May 12, 2021, 3C meeting (3C is made up of representatives from Tla’amin Nation, qathet Regional District, and the City of Powell River), the Tla’amin Nation Executive Council requested the mayor Council to change the name of the City of Powell River. On June 21, 2021, they followed up with a letter to the City. Here is a short excerpt:
“If the City believes in reconciliation, it must disassociate our homelands with the name of Israel Powell, a man who was instrumental in carrying out the residential school policy and is credited with outlawing the potlatch. This legacy has been devastating to our people, inflicting severe generational trauma and causing irreversible loss to our culture and language”
- Tla’amin Nation Executive Council, 2021
What agreements guide the name change process?
The City of Powell River has committed to reconciliation in many formal agreements, including The Community Accord (a guiding document between the City and the Nation) and has adopted both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The name change would be fully consistent with the BC government’s endorsement of UNDRIP, its own Declaration Act (2019), and its UNDRIP ActionPlan (2022).
The Community Accord outlines the City of Powell River and Tla’amin Nation’s shared responsibilities of mutual recognition, collaboration, and maintenance of relationship; it states that the City and the Nation “deem recognition, understanding, and reconciliation as the foundation of their communities’ common good” (July 20, 2018). The strategic plan emphasizes progressive governance and community health alongside values of innovation, inclusivity, collaboration, and accountability.
“Tla’amin are looking for a different pivot. They say reconciliation must include demonstrated respect for their heritage and the return and protection of their cultural artifacts. Ideally, they say, it would include renaming the town itself. The new name would celebrate the people whose ancestors have been here for thousands of years, rather than the man who came to steal and colonize, Israel Powell.”
- Andrea Smith, The Tyee (November 2021).
Why does the name change matter to you?
Why do you want name changes throughout the qathet Regional District? Maybe you aren't sure? Wherever you are at, as you read through the material we offer here, we hope you will be inspired to learn more, talk with us and those around you, and support the name change in whatever way you can.
"For me, as a settler and guest-in-learning here, this initiative is about solidarity and care, coming together to repair harms and nurture healing, and continuing to grow into relationships of peace, trust, and accountability. It is an opportunity to use my power as a citizen and come alongside this move in the right direction for all of us who reside here on the territories of the Tla'amin Nation. It is love in action; it is an action of Truth & Reconciliation".
- The Name Matters team member
Who was Powell?
Dr. Israel Powell (1836-1915) was born in Ontario, studied medicine in Montreal and landed in Victoria (a former colony of Vancouver Island) in 1862 until he died. He was a physician, elected official (1866-1868), and served as British Columbia’s first Superintendent of Indian Affairs for twenty years (1872-1892). As Superintendent, he was also appointed Lieutenant-General of the militia (the government thought the military would need to be used to dominate, control, and assimilate the Indigenous peoples of the land).
What did he do as Superintendent?
Alongside government officials, business partners, and other colleagues, Powell focused primarily on making and supporting laws and policies to eliminate Indigenous culture, religious practices, education, and government structures and replace them with Euro-Christian ones (assimilation). While he did advocate for water rights and larger reserves, he primarily saw this support as a way to encourage Indigenous peoples to give up their ways of life and take on Euro-Christian ways. His work included, but is not limited to: banning the practice of potlach (1883 -1951); encouraging use of fines and jail time to stop Indigenous cultural practices (e.g. dancing, gathering in large groups); advocating for residential schools and industrial schools; personally collecting and shipping First Nations cultural belongings and skeletal remains to museums throughout the world; surveillance (watching over) First Nations people, including the Tla’amin Nation, to limit their freedom, expression, access to land and resources, cultural life and livelihoods.
[See: Israel Wood Powell’s Legacy (2021), Know History. The Powell in Powell River (2021), Dr. Colin Osmond.]
So, why was our town named after him?
We don’t know why Tis’kwat (the original name for the area by the river) was renamed after Powell. Historical reports show that in 1880, Powell was travelling up the coast in the HMS Rocket and remarked on the river and the area's industrial potential. The Rocket Captain recorded the river as Powell River to honour the Superintendent (and it seems to have stuck!). As far as we can tell, there are no records of him visiting the land itself, and he did not invest in the economic development of this area (in business or otherwise).
The City of Powell River was established as a company town by The Powell River Company in 1910. The Powell River Company was owned by the Brooks brothers and M.J Scanlon, who came up to the area in the early 1900s from Minnesota to start a paper mill operation. In 1955, the various villages in our area (Wildwood, Cranberry, etc.) were combined and became the Municipality of Powell River (qathet Museum & Archives, 2021).
What is the process to change the City’s name?
Learn more at The Joint Working Group's (JWG) webpage. This site contains information about the members of the JWG, process and timelines, resources and support, historical information, and a Frequently Asked Question section.
City Re-naming Process
Letter from Tla’amin Nation (June 21, 2021): Re: Proposed Name Change
City of Powell River Memorandum (July 13, 2021): Proposed Name Change
City of Powell River, Committee of the Whole Meeting (Tuesday, October 19, 2021): 5.6 Possible City Renaming Process
City of Powell River Report: Possible City Renaming Process Engagement (October 19, 2021).
Truth & Reconciliation
ORANGE SHIRT DAY: Every Child Matters, Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
As I Remember It: Elder Elsie Paul with D. McKenzie, P. Raibmon & H. Johnson
First Voices: Learn to speak Ayajuthem
ʔayʔaǰuθəm | Ayajuthem: This language is spoken by the Tla’amin (ɬaʔaʔmɛn), K'omoks, Klahoose, and Homalco First Nations on the central east coast of Vancouver Island, qathet Regional District (includes Tla’amin Nation & City of Powell River), and the islands in between.
Assimilation: To actively and deliberately exterminate Indigenous culture, religious practices, education, and government structures, and replace with another culture' s religion, political systems, cultural practices, and education systems, (e.g. Euro-Christian culture).
Place names: Tla’amin Nation named places throughout this area thousands of years ago. Many of these names are still known because of the resilience and strength of Ayajuthem speakers who kept their language alive despite policies, laws, and residential schools practices that attempted to destroy the language alongside the culture.
Many of the places now hold both Ayajuthem and English names:
ʔahʔǰumɩχʷ (Ah joo miexw) refers to it being a flat clear ground, a beautiful grassy area. Also known as Willingdon Beach, named after Lord Willingdon, the Governor General of Canada who visited Powell River and opened the park in 1928.
qʷɛqʷɛyqʷɛy (Qweh qwee qwey) means Little Sandy Beach. Also known as Gibson's Beach named after Ken Gibson, a Wildwood Alderperson in the 1950/60’s.
Want to learn more? View a list, including audio clips of pronunciation, here.
Potlatch: a ceremony integral to governance, sociocultural and spiritual traditions of various First Nations living on the Pacific Northwest Coast.
Reconciliation: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) defines reconciliation as an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships [See: Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action.
Settler-colonialism: Occupation of another Nation’s lands, imposing the colonizer’s laws, language, customs, and economic systems in order to gain dominance and benefit from resources; settler-colonialism is an ongoing, everyday reality (of which all are implicated) in settler-nations, like Canada.
Viewpoint: What unites us is a sincere attachment to place, and this will move us forward (John Hackett, hegus of Tla'amin Nation, June 2022, The Peak - voice of the qathet region).
Opinion: Name change represents opportunity (qathet Youth Community Action Team, June 2022, The Peak - voice of the qathet region).
Opinion: Advocating for inclusive place names (The Name Matters, June 2022, The Peak - voice of the qathet region).
The Ayajuthem language radiates across territory (Auger, Jan 11, 2021, The Toronto Star).
Viewpoint: Some things aren’t worth fighting over (Hackett, May 2021, The Peak - voice of the qathet region).
Place names suggest deep connection to Tla’amin lands (Johnson-sɛƛakəs & Van’t Schip , September 20, 2021, The Peak - voice of the qathet region).
Powell River exploring possible name change (Landreville, October 21, 2021, My Powell River Now).
Powell River Wrestles with Changing Its Colonial Name (Smith, November 26, 2021, The Tyee).