A provincial park off the shores of Vancouver Island has been renamed to provide a deeper connection to the history, land and culture of the Snuneymuxw people.
The small island park, formerly known as Newcastle Island Marine Park, is now called Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine) Park (pronounced SAY-sut-shun), and is a place known for healing, preparation and transformation. The name Saysutshun refers specifically to the island’s use as a place of preparation.
“Saysutshun is our traditional territory and sacred to our people that holds our history, culture and way of life. Referring to it using the correct name is important and an act of respect for the Snuneymuxw people,” said Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Michael Wyse. “Over time, our Saysutshun village was unlawfully taken from our Nation without our consent. While renaming the park to our village site is a symbolic and meaningful step forward, it is another action that moves us closer to returning the land back to us. Sharing the history with the public through culturally appropriate programming is important as well, creating equality, awareness and harmony in our society. I am encouraged to see British Columbia remain committed to the terms of our 2020 Reconciliation Implementation Framework Agreement, and look forward to continued respect and recognition for Snuneymuxw First Nation.”
Ancestors of the Snuneymuxw people used the island to train and prepare themselves physically, mentally and spiritually for ceremonial events and hunting. Certain individuals were also sent to Saysutshun for teachings about healing, traditions and history.
“Reintroducing Indigenous names to provincial parks is an important act of recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ relationship with the places they have lived for many millennia, and acknowledgement of their history, traditions and culture. The opportunity to learn more about some of the most beautiful spaces in our province through the eyes of First Peoples enriches us,” said George Heyman, Minster of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Reconnecting with our natural environment, learning from history and teaching people about how to best live together is one of the best things we can be doing now as part of our journey of reconciliation to build a better future.”
Located near Nanaimo, Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine) Park was established in October 1961 and has an extensive network of trails leading to various historic points. Indigenous middens offer evidence of at least two Salish villages that were deserted before the discovery of coal in the area in 1849.
Renaming the park is part of amendments recently made to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act. Chilliwack Lake Park has been renamed Sxótsaqel/Chilliwack Lake Park (Skot-sa-qel) and more than 2,258 hectares (6,321 acres) of land and/or foreshore was added to nine existing provincial parks and one conservancy.
For more information about Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine) Park, visit: https://bcparks.ca/explore/parkpgs/newcastle/
For more information about Snuneymuxw First Nation, visit: https://www.snuneymuxw.ca/welcome
For more information about B.C.’s parks and protected areas system, visit: https://bcparks.ca/about/park-designations.html