Students in Melanie Neilson’s grade 3 class at ?ÁU,WEL?EW? Tribal School near Brentwood Bay are using their voices to make a change and there are some pretty important people listening.

The students were on a recent field trip to a provincial park in North Saanich where they saw a plaque that said John Dean Provincial Park. They were surprised because they know the park, and the mountain it’s on, as Lau, Welnew, the same name as their school.

The park was named after pioneer John Dean who donated the lands in 1921 but the mountain also features prominently in local First Nations culture as a place that helped save people during the Great Flood thousands of years ago.

It’s a legend the students know well.

“They went there cause there was a flood and there was a tree that saved them from the flood,” explained student Danaya Sam.

So their teacher, Melanie Neilson, decided to turn the discovery into a lesson.

“I had taken a picture of the plaque and we had a really [good] conversation in class about who is John Dean and why isn’t there a sign there also bearing the name of the school?” Neilson said.

The students decided to write letters and also started a petition calling for the traditional name to be added to the signage.

“I want to see what happens if we can make a change for the mountain,” said Jorja Horne who has helped collect more than 115 signatures so far.

It turns oue the sacred history of the park is well known by one high-ranking politician. Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen met with the students and is ready to take their petition to the top.

“Not surprised that the students are quite concerned about this and will do everything I can to help them achieve the goal of getting the name ?ÁU,WEL?EW? back visibly displayed on that mountain,” said Olsen.

Hearing their petition will be placed in the hands of government ministers hasn’t just put huge smiles on the students faces.

“Makes me happy,” said Horne.

“To see students stand next to our MLA and speak the truth they know of this place was truly beautiful, I was very proud as their teacher,” said Neilson.

April Lawrence