Once every so often an idea comes along that begs to be embraced with open-minded courage, even if initially it doesn’t seem feasible. People young and old, rich and poor, and of modest and mega means are given the chance to back the idea, which seems poised to set off a positive chain of events.
Usually these ideas swim against the tide of mainstream public opinion. They may even instil fear in those afraid of change. But courageous folks bring them forward all the same, often with the greater good of humanity in mind.
One such moment of clear light shone through the day Squamish elder and carver Robert Yelton suggested that Stanley Park be known as Xwayxway. On June 30, Yelton was not blowing smoke (or smoking something funny) when he said this. At the opening of the Klahowya Village exhibit and the Spirit Catcher Train in Stanley Park, he let it be known that the name Xwayxway is a reference to a First Nations village that was located where present-day Lumberman’s Arch can be found today. Yelton’s mother was born there.
Chief Ian Campbell, who understands how imperiled First Nations language and culture is among his 3,700-person-strong Squamish Nation and beyond, took the proposal a step further and tried to get the change formalized. For a moment, this opened a small window of opportunity to give something meaningful back to the people who, since colonization, have lost so many of their cultural reference points.
It didn’t happen; the impulses of our good-defence-is-a-good-offence society kicked in, and media reports citing righteous and moral indignation began piling up.
Fear is contagious, unfortunately. Yelton and Campbell’s proposal was deserving of far more than the dismissive flicking of the nose it was given. Subsequent generations may not view this kindly.
On July 5, the Stephen Harper government sent out Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore and Treasury Board President Stockwell Day to deliver the news that the Stanley Park’s name will not be changed. Nor will the park get a second official name, as some had suggested.
Hopefully, the next time the door opens to an opportunity like this we won’t slam it shut again.