Willows Beach, which is also known as Sitchanalth, is one of many points in Oak Bay that have traditional Indigenous names. A plan to work with the Songhees and Esquimalt nations to add Lekwungen place names to frequently visited areas around the municipality was approved by Oak Bay council on Monday. (Black Press Media file photo)

Willows Beach, which is also known as Sitchanalth, is one of many points in Oak Bay that have traditional Indigenous names. A plan to work with the Songhees and Esquimalt nations to add Lekwungen place names to frequently visited areas around the municipality was approved by Oak Bay council on Monday. (Black Press Media file photo)

Oak Bay looks to add Lekwungen place names

District will take guidance from Songhees, Esquimalt for potential place names

Helping broaden public understanding of the history of the lands now known as Oak Bay, and enhance reconciliation efforts, are among the goals for working with local First Nations to add Lekwungen place names around the district.

Coun. Cairine Green saw her motion pass unanimously at council Monday that called for the district to seek the guidance of the Songhees and Esquimalt on this initiative, and collaborate with the nations on other local projects that bring the communities closer.

“Oak Bay has for some time wrestled with how they could build a stronger relationship with the Songhees and Esquimalt in the context of reconciliation,” Green said. As traditional Lekwungen place names have a descriptive element to them, she added, “we really have to take our cues from the nations and be very respectful and careful about it.”

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The traditional, pre-contact territories of Lekwungen-speaking peoples includes Oak Bay.

Green worked as an Indigenous education manager at the end of her public career, and had direct involvement with First Nations on the Saanich Peninsula and elsewhere. She has been wondering for a while how to bring Lekwungen history more to the forefront in Oak Bay, she said, and has worked with the nations through Mayor Kevin Murdoch, as well as with staff, council, the Oak Bay Heritage Foundation and others gaining support for the idea.

“It was a culmination of a lot those things, and to try to figure out how we could build a strong relationship,” she said. “We’re hoping for more in the future.”

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Before the motion passed unanimously at the March 22 council meeting, Coun. Tara Ney expressed a desire to pursue not just a government to government relationship, but one involving the broader communities. “I know that there is a real receptivity to that right now in the community,” she said.

Murdoch, who has discussed the idea with Songhees Chief Ron Sam, said he looks forward to the next steps in the process.


 

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