Seven streets in Duncan’s downtown core will soon be getting Hul’q’umi’num names on their street signs, in addition to their English names.
The City of Duncan’s council approved the Hul’q’umi’num Signage Project, an initiative coordinated by the Downtown Duncan BIA, Cowichan Tribes and the City, unanimously at its meeting on Jan. 18.
Between June and December of 2019, the DDBIA formed a special committee with Cowichan Tribes and engaged in a consultation process to come up with Hul’q’umi’num names for the seven streets.
The Hul’q’umi’num names for the selected streets include Yuwen (First) Shelh for First Street, Sxwuts’ts’ulii (Hummingbird) Shelh for Second Street, Smuyuqw’a (Ladybug) Shelh for Third Street, Thuthiqut (Forest) Shelh for Fourth Street, St s’hwulmuhw (First People) Shelh for Government Street, Liloot (Train) Shelh for Station Street, and Q’lhan (Front, Ahead Of) Shelh for Canada Avenue.
Each Hul’q’umi’num name is intended to honour the English street name, or was chosen for the significance of the Hul’q’umi’num word in Cowichan culture.
A report by the DDBIA said that, for instance, Liloot (Train) was proposed for Station Street in honour of the railway station located at the end of that street, in recognition of the role the railroad played in Duncan’s early development.
In cases where more direct translations were debated, alternative names were picked.
For instance, Smuyuqw’a (Ladybug) was chosen for its significance in Cowichan storytelling.
Street names associated with individuals such as Kenneth, Ingram and Duncan streets were not selected for bilingual signage out of respect for the families of those people.
The project began in 2019 when its three partners applied for a grant from the province’s Rural Dividend grant fund.
This grant application included many possible projects, including the installation of Hul’q’umi’num street signage in downtown Duncan, and the deadline to complete all the projects associated with this funding from the province is March 21.
There will be no costs to the City of Duncan related to the new signage.
Amanda Vance, executive director of the DDBIA, said in her report to council that the goal of the project is to beautify downtown Duncan in an inclusive way, honouring Cowichan Tribes’ language and heritage with signs that are also interesting and attractive to locals and visitors alike.
She said the business organization believes the project has the potential to promote downtown Duncan nationally in a positive light, while also paving the way for a revitalization of the community following the challenges of 2020.
“The success of this project will strengthen the existing friendship between Cowichan Tribes, the City of Duncan, and the downtown business community, offering good news at a time when the power of positivity is much needed to build community and combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Vance said.
“Given recent statements by Cowichan leadership about instances of racism that Cowichan Tribes members have recently experienced, we hope that this project and proposal can contribute to a learning experience and moment of connection for all partners and the wider community.”
Coun. Tom Duncan said he can’t think of a more appropriate time for the project to be brought forward.
“It shows we’re doing our best to work together in regards to the things we have seen recently,” he said.
Coun. Garry Bruce said he was not enthusiastic about the project at first, but after hearing from members of Cowichan Tribes about what it means to them, he’s in support of the signage initiative.
“Thank you for having patience for a guy like me,” he said.
Coun. Stacy Middlemiss agreed that the project is a good start in bringing the community together.
“It helps us remember the language that was stolen from them [Cowichan Tribes], and it says to them that not only is it OK to speak the language, but that we encourage it.”