British Columbia

First Nations chief suggests Slhx̱í7lsh as the new name for Stanley Park's Siwash Rock

The iconic Siwash Rock sea stack in Stanley Park should be renamed to match its Squamish language name, Slhx̱í7lsh, suggests Ian Campbell, chief of the Squamish First Nation.

Chief's suggestion comes after park board votes to work with First Nations on new name

Taken in 1889 or 1890, this photo shows a man in a canoe paddling past Siwash Rock. The City of Vancouver says the picture is part of an album originally owned by 'pioneers,' donated to the archives in 2008. (City of Vancouver Archives)

One of three Coast Salish First Nations approved to rename Stanley Park's iconic Siwash Rock is proposing the name, Slhx̱í7lsh, or "standing man," in the Squamish language.

According to Squamish First Nations legend, a man was preparing for the arrival of his child when he was immortalized by being transformed into the stone we see today as a reward for unselfish fatherhood.

On Wednesday, the park board voted unanimously to work with the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations to rename the basalt rock between Third Beach and the Lions Gate Bridge. 

"I think this is an opportunity for authenticity where the real names that Coast Salish peoples, particularly Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh have used for thousands of years should be recognized when everything else is in English," said Squamish First Nations Chief Ian Campbell.

"There's really no presence in the park to add value of the contributions and the homelands of our people."

He says the three First Nations have slight variations in how they spell and pronounce the name, so they will have to discuss how to proceed. 

Siwash Rock, between Third Beach and the Lions Gate Bridge, is a 32-million-year-old sea stack. (Shutterstock)

Siwash Rock's current name is a Chinook word originating from the French, "sauvage", meaning savage.

Vancouver Park Board commissioner Catherine Evans called the name "an ongoing symbol of disrespect" to Indigenous Peoples.     

Campbell plans to speak with the park board about further naming and opportunities to showcase to tourists the kinds of structures that made up their historic villages in the park. 

"We've been advocating for this for many years, so to see it finally come to fruition after generations of effort I think is a celebration that our history is your history," said Campbell.

"We're in this together, and it doesn't just start with French and English and 150 [Canada's 150th anniversary], but in fact spans a millennia." 

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development says it's encouraged by the park board's show of reconciliation and is ready to receive the naming proposal. 

With files from The Early Edition