Beacon Hill Park plaque temporarily removed over concerns of inaccuracy and outdated language

Beacon Hill Park plaque temporarily removed over concerns of inaccuracy and outdated language
The plaque, which has since been removed, is shown at Beacon Hill Park.

There’s been a subtle change at the top of Beacon Hill Park. A plaque that’s been there for 10 or more years has been removed.

“Due to concerns of inaccuracy and outdated language expressed by a resident, the plaque was temporarily removed while the city assesses the wording,” said Colleen Mycroft, spokesperson for the City of Victoria.

The Friends of Beacon Hill Park Society think the main cause is a missing comma.

“It was just a simple typo, but they happened to put it in metal on a plaque,” said Tom Epplett, president of Friends of Beacon Hill Park Society.

Epplett also believes the plaque is missing some historical context.

“Some more enlightened First Nation history would be good,” he said.

Epplett’s not the only one that says this plaque needs updating. Reuben Rose-Redwood, a social and cultural geographer at the University of Victoria says this plaque is missing thousands of years of Indigenous history.

“It mentions that when the City of Victoria was first settled and established these lands were ‘a natural park,’ which is simply historically inaccurate,” said Rose-Redwood.

Beacon Hill Park was known as Meegan to the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations. It was the site of burials in some areas. In others, camas – or kwetlal – was cultivated, harvested, and traded for thousands of years.

The kwetlal bulb is a complex carbohydrate, and was a staple of sustenance for First Nations on the northwest coast.

“People would come from different nations up and down the coast to trade. We would trade for ooligan up north, and sturgeon from the Fraser River,” said Cheryl Bryce, a Songhees knowledge holder when speaking with CHEK News in May 2023. “It was very sought after and a very important food, and it still is today.”

Rose-Redwood says the previous plaque ignored that history.

“The plaque itself reinforces the colonial narrative of explorers like Vancouver who said that this was uncultivated land. These were very much cultivated landscapes by the Indigenous people and I think it’s important to recognize [that] in the stories we tell,” said Rose-Redwood.

The moving and removing of statues is nothing new in Victoria, Canada, or even globally.

From Sir John A Macdonald’s retreat from city hall to the renaming of Trutch Street to səʔit (Su’it) (pronounced say-EET) Street, the Lekwungen word for “Truth,” Greater Victoria is still in the midst of reconsidering its past and how it’s presented.

“Some may argue removing a plaque is erasing history, but the plaque itself was an erasure of Indigenous histories of these lands,” said Rose-Redwood.

The city says no decisions or conversations on the future of the plaque have happened yet, and there’s no timeline on when it will return.

But what is etched next, many hope, will contain a more fulsome story.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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