A First Nation near Powell River, B.C., claims an elected councillor from that city “belittled and mocked” their language by using a made-up place name.
Councillor Jim Palm was speaking about an opinion poll on whether or not Powell River should change its name at a meeting last Tuesday.
“Step one is, ‘Are you in favour of a name change, yes or no,’ that’s simple,” Palm said. “You don’t convolute it with ‘Wakawana’ or whatever names come out of Tla’amin.”
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In 2021 the Tla’amin Nation and the City of Powell River agreed to form a joint working group to start a community conversation on the possibility of changing the community’s name.
The community is named after Israel Wood Powell, B.C.’s first Indian Affairs superintendent, and the Tla’amin had requested the change, “in light of the devastating legacy the actions of Israel Powell have had and continue to have on the Tla’amin people.”
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The working group returned a report in 2022, and last month the city tabled strategic priorities including taking “real steps towards a name change.”
Tla’amin Nation Hegus (Chief) John Hackett told Global News Palm’s comments in the discussion were hurtful.
“Our people were taught to be ashamed of our language through this exact behaviour from Councillor Palm,” he said.
“This has resulted in the near loss of our language. We’re working hard to reclaim the fluency of our (language) and a mockery of this is insulting to a lot of the work that has been put in.”
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In a statement, Palm said he was sorry for any misunderstanding following his comments.
“The fictitious name I used as an example at the Committee of the Whole meeting, was not intended as a mockery of the Tla’amin language,” he wrote.
“However, it is now clear that the effect of this example was hurtful and had further-reaching consequences although there was no disrespect meant.”
Palm added that a name change may take place, but that the process will take time and that navigating the process is challenging.
© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.