A provincial park in Nanaimo is being re-named to reflect the area’s Snuneymuxw First Nation heritage.
Newcastle Island Marine Park, in Nanaimo’s harbour, is now known as Saysutshun Park, the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy announced in a press release.
Snuneymuxw’s ancestors used Saysutshun as a place to “train and prepare themselves physically, mentally and spiritually” for hunting and ceremonies, said the press release. Certain people went to the island to learn about history, healing and traditions, it said.
In the press release, Snuneymuxw Chief Michael Wyse said usage of the island’s proper name is important. The village was unlawfully taken from the nation without consent and renaming the park is “a symbolic and meaningful step forward” and “another action that moves us closer to returning the land back to Snuneymuxw,” he said.
“Sharing the history with the public through culturally appropriate programming is important as well, creating equality, awareness and harmony in our society,” Wyse said. “I am encouraged to see B.C. remain committed to the terms of our 2020 reconciliation implementation framework agreement, and look forward to continued respect and recognition for Snuneymuxw First Nation.”
George Heyman, B.C. minister of environment and climate change strategy, said the Newcastle-Saysutshun transition recognizes Indigenous peoples’ relationship with the land and acknowledges their tradition and culture.
“The opportunity to learn more about some of the most beautiful spaces in our province through the eyes of First Peoples enriches us,” Heyman said in the press release. “Reconnecting with our natural environment, learning from history and teaching people about how to best live together is one of the best things we can be doing now as part of our journey of reconciliation to build a better future.”
The park was established in October 1961 and is the locale for “an extensive network of trails leading to various historic points,” stated the press release.
On-site evidence suggests there were at least two Salish villages that were deserted before 1849, when coal was discovered in the area.
More information on Saysutshun Park can be found at www.bcparks.ca/explore/parkpgs/newcastle/.