The Powell River Regional District has been asking for feedback from the public as it works toward changing its name to the qathet Regional District.
Throughout September, the Powell River Regional District has been holding public engagement sessions to see how the community feels about the proposed name change. The regional district has also been seeking support from the City of Powell River and the electoral areas.
Powell River Regional District board chair Patrick Brabazon said the idea for the name change started years ago due to ongoing confusion when it came to applications for grants that either involved the City of Powell River or the regional district.
“We ran into a confusion problem with the city in that senior government had made decisions in the past on grant funding etc. between the city and the RD [regional district],” Brabazon said.
He also added that over time, he began to think that the current name doesn’t really represent the regional district, which stretches from Toba Inlet to Jervis Inlet and halfway across the Strait of Georgia to Lasqueti Island.
“The name of the of the town on the coast here doesn’t really encompass all that area,” Brabazon said.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the regional district’s incorporation and Brabazon said there is also an opportunity to celebrate the Tla’amin Nation self-government. In April of last year, the Tla’amin First Nation implemented a treaty that gave it control of the traditional territory around Powell River.
Brabazon brought up a subject of a name change to Tla’amin Nation hegus Clint Williams during their ongoing conversations about government issues and relationships.
“I said I couldn’t think of any single name that could encompass the entire regional district. Is there a word in Tla’amin? While it turns out there isn’t. They’ve got over 500 place names for various areas around our regional district but there’s no single place name that covers the whole thing,” Brabazon said.
Williams then went to a couple different group of elders and they came up with qathet, which means “working together.” The pronunciation of qathet is “KA’thet.
“They came forward with a few different names and we were trying to find a name that would be easy to pronounce,” Williams said.
Elder Betty Wilson and Williams attended the session where Brabazon introduced the name to the regional board. The board approved proceeding with the name change.
“I think it’s a nice acknowledgement of the Tla’amin Nation traditional territory as the regional district sits within the Tla’amin traditional territory,” Williams said.
According to Brabazon, regional districts have traditionally had a geographic reference, but it’s not a written rule.
“While it doesn’t meet the geographic requirement, it meets the spirit of what the hegus and I have been trying to achieve, which is a good working relationship between our communities,” Brabazon said.
Williams said the decision is up to the district but the acknowledgement lends itself toward a reconciliation project in the area. The Powell River was named after Israel Wood Powell, who was the superintendent of Indian Affairs.
“There’s not a lovely history with the formerly Sliammon people, now known as the Tla’amin Nation, so we really appreciate the fact that the regional district is willing to put themselves out there if they vote in favour of it to rename this area qathet, a name provided to them from the Tla’amin Nation,” Williams said.
Williams said there is a good relationship between the Tla’amin Nation, the City of Powell River and the Powell River Regional District. Another example of reconciliation, Williams said, is the regional district has asked the Tla’amin Nation to construct a small longhouse at the Shelter Point Regional Park and Campground on Texada Island to show a First Nations procession.
This comes after an archaeological impact assessment which showed thousands of years of occupation by First Nations people.
“Growing up in this Powell River area, we always have been told that the ‘Indians always avoided Taxeda because they were told it was going to sink or flip over,” Williams said.
“We knew that our people used that island but growing up in this area, we were always told that we never did use it so when that archaeological study happened, it was pretty rewarding for us because it just confirmed what we had already known.”
All the feedback and documents from the public will be put into a report, which will be provided to the regional board in October. If the board decides to continue to move forward with the proposed name change, it will then go to the provincial government for approval. The province expects to see rationale as to why the change is requested, a preferred timeline for the change, consultation with First Nations and the municipality, and a record of public consultation and synopsis of feedback, if any.
Brabazon said there has been a mix of responses at the public consultation sessions.
“Generally we’re running favourably,” Brabazon said.
“There are people who are concerned it’s not a place name but it’s been pointed out that over time, it will be a place name. The whole world is full of place names that meant next to nothing until they were adopted a place name.”
He also added that the younger demographic tend are more favourable to a name change.
The City of Powell River approved sending a letter of endorsement during a council meeting on Sept. 7. However, before a formal resolution is passed in the chamber, the city will review the report from the regional district.
City of Powell River Coun. Jim Palm said a name change would provide a distinction between the city and the regional district.
“It’s a little confusing in that regard when you’re applying for funds to the same agency, both jurisdictions, so that’s going to help clarify for those funding agencies whose actually applying,” Palm said.
Brabazon said the cost of changing the name will be negligible with some of the changes, such as replacing the decals on vehicles, being done over time. The sign on the front of the office would change right away.
“We’re really talking minimal cost, next to nothing,” Brabazon said.
The regional district is hoping to complete the name change by Dec. 19.