Provincial marine park in traditional territory of Snuneymuxw First Nation officially renamed

Provincial marine park in traditional territory of Snuneymuxw First Nation officially renamed
BC Parks
A high-use area in Saysutshun Park near Nanaimo (Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News)

A provincial park off the shores of Vancouver Island has officially been renamed to provide a deeper connection to the history, land and culture of the Snuneymuxw people, according to the BC government.

The small island park, formerly known as Newcastle Island Marine Park, is now called Saysutshun Park (pronounced SAY-sut-shun).

The island is located near Nanaimo and Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine) Park was established in October, 1961. The island has an extensive network of trails leading to various historic points.

According to the Snuneymuxw people, the park is a place known for healing, preparation and transformation and the name Saysutshun refers specifically to the island’s use as a place of preparation.

Indigenous middens offer evidence that at least two Salish villages were deserted before the discovery of coal in the area in 1849.

“Saysutshun is our traditional territory and sacred to our people that hold our history, culture and way of life. Referring to it using the correct name is important and an act of respect for the Snuneymuxw people,” said Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Michael Wyse. “Over time, our Saysutshun village was unlawfully taken from our Nation without our consent. While renaming the park to our village site is a symbolic and meaningful step forward, it is another action that moves us closer to returning the land back to us. Sharing the history with the public through culturally appropriate programming is important as well, creating equality, awareness and harmony in our society. I am encouraged to see British Columbia remain committed to the terms of our 2020 Reconciliation Implementation Framework Agreement, and look forward to continued respect and recognition for Snuneymuxw First Nation.”

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Ancestors of the Snuneymuxw people used the island to train and prepare themselves physically, mentally and spiritually for ceremonial events and hunting.

The Snuneymuxw First Nation also says that certain individuals were sent to Saysutshun for teachings about healing, traditions and history.

“Reintroducing Indigenous names to provincial parks is an important act of recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ relationship with the places they have lived for many millennia, and acknowledgement of their history, traditions and culture. The opportunity to learn more about some of the most beautiful spaces in our province through the eyes of First Peoples enriches us,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Reconnecting with our natural environment, learning from history and teaching people about how to best live together is one of the best things we can be doing now as part of our journey of reconciliation to build a better future.”

More information about Saysutshun Park — formerly Newcastle Island Marine Park — can be found here:

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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