Siwash Rock 'disrespectful'

The Siwash Rock in Vancouver's Stanley Park could be renamed if First Nations agree its name is disrespectful to Aboriginal Peoples.

The park board voted unanimously Wednesday night to work with Coast Salish Nations to determine if the distinctive rock should be renamed, saying it is taking a first step towards righting "acts of dispossession and disrespect."

Commissioner Catherine Evans proposed the motion and said the Stanley Park intergovernmental working group, which includes representatives from the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, will consider the change.

"Listening to (Squamish) Chief Ian Campbell, it seems that they are going to welcome the change. The challenge of course is there is more than one Indigenous language spoken among the three nations. We'll see what happens," Evans said.

The massive 18-metre basalt sea stack stands prominently on the park's northwest shore near the entrance to Vancouver's harbour. In First Nations culture, it represents a man turned to stone to honour his purity and dedication to fatherhood.

The word siwash is a derogatory term for an Indigenous person and comes from Chinook jargon, which was the first method of communication between Europeans and Coast Salish peoples. Siwash is the Chinook interpretation of the French word sauvage, or savage.

"You can't go on pretending that it's not derogatory, just because you are not using it in a derogatory way," said Evans.

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