The PKOLS reclamation: Saturating the land with our stories

The PKOLS reclamation: Saturating the land with our stories

On May 22, members of the Tsawout (SȾÁUTW) nation, with support from the Songhees and the other local WSÁNEĆ nations, including Tsartlip (WJOȽEȽP), Pauquachin (BOḰEĆEN), Tseycum (WSIKEM), Malahat (MÁLEXEȽ) and allied supporters from the Greater Victoria community, will lead an action to reclaim the original name of PKOLS, now known as Mount Douglas, in what is now known as Victoria, in what is now known as British Columbia.

I live 3400 km from PKOLS, and I am not apart of the SȾÁUTW, Songhees or the WSÁNEĆ nations. As an Anishinaabekwe however, I know intimately the importance of standing in ones territory, freely practicing our ceremonies at our sacred places, harvesting our foods, and telling our children their stories of creation in the exact spot creation happened and is happening.

I know that living as Anishinaabe is one of the most important things we can do, on reserve, off reserve, in the middle of the bush or in the middle of the city. So I know that the reclamation of PKOLS is an extraordinarily important act for the SȾÁUTW, Songhees and the WSÁNEĆ because it physically connects them to a powerful place, alive with story, and breathing with history.

I hope for non-Natives living in Victoria that it instills in them a sense of responsibility to the land and to the peoples whose homelands they live in — a responsibility to learn what that means on the terms of the SȾÁUTW, Songhees and the WSÁNEĆ nations. I hope it reminds every non-Indigenous visitor to PKOLS that we are still here — as living, breathing, intelligent, creative peoples committed to living in and protecting our homelands.

This process of re-naming is a prominent part of colonial dispossession. Naming within western thought is a signifier of occupation and ownership, and mapping is a highly political act, deliberately designed in a colonial context to erase Indigenous presence, history, and connection to the land. English and French place names reflect a narrow, constructed view of history that erase any question of Canada’s claim to territory.

Looking at a map of Canada, it is as if Indigenous Peoples never existed, except to infuse the odd anglicized word from a Native language in a series of otherwise disconnected place names taken from colonial homelands, and white hero-ized men who are celebrated only for dispossessing Indigenous Peoples of our lands.

Peaceful co-existence requires much more.


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