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Poor communication dogs First Nations sign removal
The large cedar sign that read ‘Pkols,’ the original First Nation name for Mount Douglas, no longer sits atop the Saanich mountaintop.
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard said municipal workers removed the sign last Thursday and put it into storage, after its anchor bolts were drilled into the roof of a communications building under the parking lot in May, as part of a symbolic name reclaiming ceremony.
The sign was becoming unstable, and the drill holes resulted in water leaking in to the communications building at the summit, he said.
“We just couldn’t leave that through the winter,” Leonard said.
Despite Saanich twice reaching out to Tsawout First Nation Chief Eric Pelkey to discuss short-term relocation for the sign – and receiving no reply – many people were upset the sign was removed without discussing it with First Nations.
“They acted without calling any of us, they didn’t call (Pelkey), just sent him (two) letters in the mail,” said Taiaiake Alfred, a member of the Indigenous Nationhood Movement. “Sending letters in the mail is not the most efficient way to communicate.”
Pelkey, on Twitter, acknowledged a letter from Saanich was received, but it was misdirected within his office.
Despite the municipality having previously dealt with Pelkey on Pkols-related discussions, Alfred said he should’ve been the one Saanich contacted about sign issues.
Leonard admits Saanich should have put out a release last Thursday about the sign’s removal, so there was never any confusion about where the sign went or that it was removed without the consideration of First Nations.
He said on Monday that Pelkey contacted Saanich and discussions will soon take place with regards to the future short-term location of the Pkols sign and the long-term potential of renaming or name-sharing Mount Douglas. Until that happens, the sign will remain in storage.
“It’s such a significant landmark, that (later discussion) would likely involve all four (local First Nations),” Leonard said. “That discussion’s bigger than any one of us.”