Language shapes the way people see the world and plays a significant role in power dynamics. Using language that upholds and respects Indigenous peoples, cultures, and worldviews is a central to this project.
Learning and sharing Indigenous place names, such as Xwe'etay, is part of decolonizing our understanding of place. This includes broadening discussions to include not just recent settler history but also Indigenous deep time connections to particular places. Xwe'etay is the Northern Coast Salish term for Yew Tree and it is the name that was broadly used by the Coast Salish for the island. Settlers on Lasqueti say that yew trees used to be common here and it seems likely that the island was valued in the past as a source of this exceptionally hard wood. We do not know the island name used by the Kwakwakwakw to the north.
Since Indigenous languages were not written down in the past, Nations have adopted different conventions (orthographies) for transferring their language to written form. Thus, Xwe’etay can be written different ways. We have chosen this spelling because it is common and easy to read phonetically.
Listen to Elder Elsie Paul of Tla’amin Nation pronounce Xwe'etay:
Decolonizing Archaeological Terminology
Ancestors instead of skeletal remains
Belongings instead of artefacts
Cemetery instead of burials
Settlement instead of site
Stories, teachings, and oral histories instead of myths and legends
Indigenous history instead of prehistory/prehistoric
Precolonial instead of precontact
For further information on decolonizing language please see:
Indigenous Peoples: Language Guidelines
Recommendations for Decolonizing British Columbia's Heritage-related Processes and Legislation