Keeping Stanley Park over Xwayxway was an opportunity lost

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      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.



      ryan s

      Jul 13, 2010 at 2:47pm

      wow - shut up. no one will even care about this in 2 months, it's fairly greedy of these first nations to demand something be changed that everyone who lives here NOW is used to and grew up with...if they had any decency they would request a small portion of the park be re-named which i am sure EVERYONE would be happy with.


      Jul 13, 2010 at 3:00pm

      I couldn't agree with you less. I have no problem with native culture getting its due respect. I think the Olympics were a good step in the right direction, along with the signs on the sea to sky. That said, Stanley Park is possibly our most well known landmark and one of the most famous parks in the world. In trying to become a world class city, if Vancouver rebranded its identity in such a drastic way it would cripple the momentum it has in that quest. I know that sounds extreme but imagine changing the name of Central Park to something borderline un-pronounceable by pretty much every tourist who visits it. Wouldn't you consider that a little off the wall?

      Jul 13, 2010 at 3:04pm

      "Shut up"? Really, Ryan S?

      I think we should just use the second name all by ourselves.

      Some have argued it would hurt our tourism because "Stanley Park" is so famous, but why would BC's tourism minister and Tourism Vancouver endorse the idea then? "There is nothing to lose by doing this and much to be gained."
      stephen elliott-buckley


      Jul 13, 2010 at 3:06pm

      I don't agree at all. Think of the logistics of changing a name as iconic as Stanley Park. Pamphlets, websites, tour books etc are just the beginning. Then there is the fact that SP has a global reputation and got strong exposure during the Olympics. It has its own history under its present name.

      And then there's the case of Science World. Changing its name really took off!

      Yvonne B

      Jul 13, 2010 at 3:07pm

      It is great to recognize First Nations languages and culture - however, I believe the Musqueam First Nation also has land claims on Stanley Park. Shouldn't all parties involved be consulted?


      Jul 13, 2010 at 3:51pm

      I feel the absolute opposite has happened. An opportunity came along to keep the name which the majority of Vancouver residents (90+% according to a globe and mail poll) wanted. Its always a win to see the government listen to the will of the people in my opinion.

      David L.

      Jul 13, 2010 at 3:55pm

      I still dont agree to changing the name from Stanley Park to anything else and frankly I am tired of hearing how the native peoples have "lost so many of their cultural reference points".
      Stop whimpering and get on with it !

      Jamie Collins

      Jul 13, 2010 at 4:16pm


      You have it wrong, it was not an opportunity so much as a detrimental attack on the creation of Stanley Park. Stanley Park was protected from development, and put under the control by Lord Stanley of Preston. It was open for anyone of any race, religion, or tradition. Choosing to rename a park based on the wishes of one ethnicity just spits in the face of equality, if you give it a second name in Native then you must give it a third name in Chinese, fourth in Hindu, etc.

      An opportunity where everyone is represented equally is a shining beacon of hope, an opportunity to elevate a single minority is a shining beacon of resentment and hatred.


      Jul 13, 2010 at 5:46pm

      The whole park was never called Xwayxway - just the part around Lumbermans Arch which used to be a native village by that name. I am ok with that part of the park being renamed. but the whole of the park should be Stanley Park - it has never been anything else.


      Jul 13, 2010 at 6:01pm

      "Usually these ideas swim against the tide of mainstream public opinion."

      No, really? Its why majority rules in a democracy. Deal with it.

      "Some have argued it would hurt our tourism because "Stanley Park" is so famous, but why would BC's tourism minister and Tourism Vancouver endorse the idea then?"

      Its called political pandering and PC gone amok.