Name change proposed for Siwash Rock

Notice of motion on Vancouver Park Board's October agenda

Vancouver Park Board commissioner Catherine Evans is proposing Siwash Rock be renamed as part of the city’s commitment to reconciliation with First Nations.

Evans has a notice of motion detailing the proposal on the park board’s Oct. 2 meeting agenda.

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“The history of Stanley Park includes acts of dispossession and disrespect directed toward the indigenous people who inhabited it,” the notice of motion states.

“An ongoing symbol of disrespect is the name Siwash Rock, given to a rock situated along the western shore of Stanley Park and identified as a Point of Interest on the Official Map and Guide.”

The word Siwash stems from the French word sauvage.

Evans proposes that staff work with the Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working Group, which includes representatives of each of the three First Nations, to develop a process for re-naming Siwash Rock and that a report be brought back to the park board about the process and timeline.

Evans, who is a liaison member to the City of Vancouver's civic asset naming committee, told the Courier Friday that she first learned about negative connotations for the word Siwash last spring. 

"There's been a discussion around the [naming committee] table about getting a more diverse representation of names in our city," she said.

The committee's chair, John Atkin, told her the park board is in a position to deal with Siwash Rock.

Evans, who didn't grow up in B.C., wasn't aware the name was considered offensive. 

"From his understanding, it has been an issue for decades for the First Nations here — that the term is derogatory and they have sought to have a name change to it in the past. For me, that was a revelation. I didn't know the term was derogatory but I realized probably every indigenous person around here knows it," she said.

"Once you learn that something is derogatory, you can't unlearn that. Language is symbolic and we attach a great deal of cultural significance to naming. There's rituals around naming and naming is important. So, it's symbolic but it's important."

Evans says the right mechanism to deal with it exists with the Stanley Park Intergovernmental Working Group.

"We can move forward in a way that isn't sort of another act of colonialism. Again, it's in the hands of that working group and if they decide not to rename it, that's their prerogative as well."

Another Vancouver politician is already expressing support for the move on social media — Green Party park board commissioner Stuart Mackinnon.


In the meantime, the prospect of renaming Mount Garibaldi, which sits on the traditional territory of the Squamish Nation, has also been raised. Its original name was Nch’Kay.  Read about that initiative HERE.

In February 2017, activists targeted at least two "Welcome to Vancouver" signs, covering them with a white sheet or canvas that had the words "Unceded Territory" written on them. Read that story HERE.

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