Celia Haig-Brown was delighted when she heard the North Shuswap park named after her father Roderick might be changed to a Secwepemc name.
Celia wrote to the newspaper to say her family agrees with her initial reaction.
“I have since contacted my three siblings to ask for their input and we all agree this would be an elegant move: to give the park a name based in Secwpemctsin. Definitely having Secwepemc representation at the table regarding the name is essential to choosing appropriately. I know that there are existing traditional names for many spots in the area and feel it would be great if the name chosen reflected this long-standing relationship of people, salmon, land and rivers,” she wrote.
“I feel strongly that my father, who had deep respect for Indigenous peoples, would also be delighted to hear about this change.”
The discussion came about when Kathryn Michel, a language worker at Chief Atahm school in Chase, responded to a column written by Shuswap Market News columnist Jim Cooperman, in which he mentioned the provincial Ministry of Environment was considering changing the name. Michel stated this was the first time she’d heard of the plan and the Secwepemc people should be invited to the table.
“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.”
Michel said, however, she was concerned the idea would 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 instrumental in recognizing a need to create the park four decades ago.
Michel surmised that Roderick Haig-Brown would celebrate the change since the Secwepemc worldview of interconnectedness complements his teachings about the importance of connecting to the natural world.
His daughter Celia responded: “We could not agree more.”
She added: “I also want to acknowledge the important work he did in his lifetime working for rivers and salmon when so many others were exploiting the gifts our lands offer us. I do hope that the plaque with his poem can stay in its place of honour beside the spawning grounds.”
– with files from Kamloops This Week