Should park have Secwepemc moniker?

MOE discussing rename of Roderick Haig-Brown park

B.C.’s Ministry of Environment is in discussions to rename the park at the heart of the Adams River salmon run, changing it from a tribute to an iconic Canadian to a Secwepemc name.

Roderick Haig-Brown park was established in 1977 and given the moniker of the famed conservationist and author of nearly 30 books.

During the dominant sockeye run every four years, it is visited by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world.

A B.C. Liberal government spokesman confirmed “informal discussions have taken place” but provided no other detail.

Kathryn Michel, a language worker at Chief Atahm school in Chase, applauded the idea in conjunction with Canada’s 150th anniversary. She recently sent a letter to the Salmon Arm Observer newspaper.

“The many Secwepemc place names, including those referring to landforms, waterways, village sites and resource-gathering areas, had unceremoniously been cast aside and rebranded to suit the current agendas of Euro-Canadian settlers, with many of these places named after individuals,” she wrote. “In contrast, Secwepemc place names highlight the essence of the land and/or the relationship between humans and the earth.”

In an interview, Michel said she is concerned the idea will turn into a conflict over Haig-Brown’s legacy on one side and recognizing Secwepemc history and culture on the other.

“We’re not trying to kick him off in a corner and forget what he’s about,” she said of the conservationist whose work was important in recognizing a need to create the park four decades ago. He died the year before the park was established and named after him.

There are examples of renaming places in B.C., most notably the change from Queen Charlotte Islands to Haida Gwaii.

Shuswap environmentalist Jim Cooperman said removing Haig-Brown’s name will be controversial. He suggests a compromise that retains Haig-Brown’s name and includes a Secwepemc moniker, as well.

“Whatever happens, I don’t want to see Roderick Haig-Brown lost in the shuffle. The park wouldn’t exist without Roderick Haig-Brown.”

Michel said she was surprised to read about the proposal through a column penned by Cooperman in Salmon Arm’s newspaper.

“We need to be at the table when there’s a name change,” she said.

Michel suggested the name Kwlolecw (green earth) but added more appropriate names may come out in discussion. She also said she doesn’t want Haig-Brown’s name to leave the park, advocating it be retained in a future building or centre within the park.

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