Yes, there is power in a name or more appropriately we allow that name to have power over us. Really, the name only has the power that we give it as individuals and communities. This is very human and very emotionally driven.
In my opinion, whether or not the name of Powell River should be changed has to do with the emotions surrounding changing it or keeping it the same. Most of the people who want to keep the name have a deep love and affection for this community and all that it has provided for them and their families. On the other hand, the emotions surrounding wanting to remove the name Powell are based in anger. Any change, but especially a change of this magnitude, should never be undertaken based on strong negative emotions.
These emotions are appropriate, given what happened to First Nations’ culture and to the children in the residential school system. I feel these very strong emotions are being misdirected in thinking that changing the name, Powell River, is going to bring healing.
Healing comes from acceptance that you cannot change what happened and forgiveness of the persons/system who wronged you. Most importantly, emotional healing must come from within, not without.
When you are looking for healing from without then there is no end to that quest and the demands spiral out of control without resolution. Will you hate everyone who has the last name Powell? Will you demand that all colonial names like Victoria and Vancouver are changed? Where does that end?
Powell was a man of his time, someone who likely felt he was doing good work at the time but couldn’t see the harmful effects. In short, he was human.
Judged by today’s standards he was of course very misguided and in the case of the residential schools it went very wrong. Those who have been directly harmed by that process need to be helped by the system that harmed them and any ongoing abuse must be stopped.
There can be no reconciliation without forgiveness. Without forgiveness, everything that is asked for in compensation (like the name change) is done in the name of retribution. After a heartfelt apology has been given it is either accepted or denied.
Only the path of acceptance leads to forgiveness, healing and closure. Like my wife Henrietta [“Viewpoint: Witnessing a beautiful family feud,” June 1], I am excited for the opportunity to have a big ceremony and celebration where there is both an apology and forgiveness. At that ceremony I think the unveiling of a parallel Indigenous name would be awesome and the two communities of Tla’amin and Powell River can move forward shoulder to shoulder.
Ted Johnson is a Powell River resident.