British Columbia

Vancouver Park Board votes unanimously to work with First Nations to rename Siwash Rock

A new name for the iconic sea stack off the seawall will be decided by First Nations and Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working Group.

New name will be decided by First Nations and Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working Group

Taken in 1889 or 1890, this photo shows a man in a canoe paddling past Siwash Rock. Traditional Indigenous stories about the rock date back thousands of years. (City of Vancouver Archives)

Stanley Park's Siwash Rock may soon have a new name following a unanimous decision by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.

The task of renaming the iconic feature will fall to the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, if they want it. 

Park Board Commissioner Catherine Evans introduced the motion, calling the name "an ongoing symbol of disrespect" toward Indigenous Peoples.

"We've embarked on a new relationship with our three First Nations members with the Stanley Park Working Group," Evans said,

"This  is another step in that relationship which I hope will build a positive and respectful future for us."

The board hasn't heard from all three nations as to what they'd like to see happen but Wednesday's motion invites the three Coast Salish First Nations to guide the protocol and renaming process.

"We have names and history and legends that span thousands of years," said Ian Campbell, chief of the Squamish First Nation. 

"For a long time our culture and naming has been invisible in our own territories."

Siwash is a Chinook word derived from the French word "sauvage" (savage, in English) a derogatory reference to Indigenous people. 

Chinook was created by mixing English, French, Salish and other Indigenous languages to facilitate trade and communication.

The sea stack, located between Third Beach and the Lions Gate Bridge, is named Slhx̱í7lsh in the Squamish language.

That name means 'something standing', 'standing one' or 'standing person,' in reference to traditional stories about a man who was transformed into the rock by supernatural beings.

According to Campbell, the legend tells of a man who was preparing himself for the arrival of his child when he was transformed into a rock to stand as a reminder of the responsibility of parenthood.

According to the chief of the Squamish Nation, the legend about Slhx̱í7lsh tells of a soon-to-be father who was immortalized by supernatural beings to serve as a reminder of the responsibility that comes with raising children. (City of Vancouver Archives)

The renaming process is now the responsibility of the Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working Group, which includes representatives from the three First Nations in Vancouver.

"It would be a further act of colonialism to rename it myself or ask the Park Board to rename it," Evans said.