Use of Lekwungen place names on new signs ‘meaningful’: First Nations

New direction signs being installed in downtown Victoria will feature both Lekwungen and English geographic names.

The first of 11 large signs in Phase 1 of the plan was unveiled Wednesday next to Victoria’s Visitor Information Centre, accompanied by a blessing from Esquimalt Nation elder Mary Ann Thomas.

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The first sign is titled Inner Harbour in English and xʷsey̓’əm in Lekwungen.

“This is really significant,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “We’re in an era of reconciliation and we recognize that the city is actually on the Lekwungen homelands.”

Lekwungen territory is home to both the Songhees and Esquimalt people.

Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam said the use of Lekwungen names is meaningful.

“I think the name of a place is important because it pays respect to our ancestors that were here long before the city was the city.”

He said having Lekwungen names also acknowledges both Songhees and Esquimalt elders of today.

Esquimalt Nation Chief Andy Thomas said the signage is part of an “exciting time.”

“For our young people, they’re going to be able to see it and know where they’re from.”

“We welcome thousands of people to this harbour every year, residents and visitors to the city,” said Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO Ian Robertson. “The signage is a wonderful enhancement to the harbour.”

The result is a wayfinding system focused on the downtown area and the David Foster Harbour Pathway, which extends from Ogden Point to the Johnson Street Bridge.

“The idea is to make it easy for people to walk around the downtown, particularly for visitors but also for new residents,” Helps said.

Phase 1 also includes 57 smaller signs, some of which have already been installed on the David Foster Harbour Pathway. Phase 2 of the signage effort will direct people to the city’s neighbourhoods, Helps said.

Other Phase 1 signs will go to such locations as Chinatown, Old Town, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Belleville Terminal.

The budget for Phase 1 of the project, known as the Victoria Citywide Wayfinding Strategy, is $183,000. Of that, $31,000 came from the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and $25,000 from a Trans Canada Trail grant. The remaining $127,000 was approved in the city’s 2017 financial plan.

The budget for Phase 2 is $150,000 as approved in the 2018 financial plan.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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