Seven streets in downtown Duncan have had 30 street signs installed that have Hul’q’umi’num’, as well as English, names on them.
The project is a partnership between the City of Duncan, the Downtown Duncan BIA and Cowichan Tribes.
The DDBIA formed a special committee with Cowichan Tribes in 2019 and engaged in a consultation process to come up with Hul’q’umi’num’ names for the seven streets.
The bilingual street signs have gone up on Station/Liloot Street, Government/Hwulmuhw Street, Canada/Q’lhan Avenue, First/Yuwen Street, Second/Sxwut’ts’ulii Street, Third/Smayuqw’a’ Street and Fourth/ Thuthiqut Street.
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.
The installation of the signs was completed on March 19 and in the following weeks, the DDBIA’s executive director Amanda Vance met with Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour, Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples, and various other participants in the project to celebrate the installation of the signs in a series of small, socially-distanced meetings.
The partners also produced a short video to mark the occasion virtually due to COVID-19.
In the coming weeks, the DDBIA will be releasing pamphlets to member businesses with QR codes linking to School District 79’s website where recordings will be available for the public to learn pronunciation of the Hul’q’umi’num’ street names.
Other related projects in the works include a second virtual Hul’q’umi’num’ language lesson for the public.
“I am so honoured to see these Hul’q’umi’num’ signs on our streets,” said Merle Seymour, a Cowichan Tribes elder and participant in the naming process.
“This really uplifts our people. I really raise my hands to each and every one who was involved. Huy steep q’u.”
Seymour added that he’s been looking since he’s been chief at how to work better with his neighbouring governments, and this is a big step, recognizing street names and being able to change them into the Hul’q’umi’num’ language.
Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples said that when the community says they are walking together and standing together, these signs show that it is not just lip service.
“It’s something we are actually moving towards, because we are recognizing this is something that should have been done from the beginning,” Staples said. “This has to inspire us to do more. This is an opportunity to ask how we want to move forward together, what we want to build together.”
As to the next stage of the journey, Seymour said it is most important to start discussing the question of land.
“Having them acknowledge they are on Quw’utsun territory means a lot to us,” he said. “We look at this project as very important…[but] the easiest answer is to give the land back to me. Solves all your problems.”
While the Hul’q’umi’num’ signage project does not resolve the question of land negotiations, the partners do feel it is a positive step in the right direction.
“I hope that these street signs will start some conversations, and I think they will, and that these conversations will be a good way to build connections,” said Duncan Coun. Jenni Capps, the DDBIA liaison from city council.
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