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Viewpoint: Witnessing a beautiful family feud

The way I see it, a dominant European culture landed on these shores and bullied the Indigenous people into subservience. There were many wrongs. ~ Henrietta Johnson

Greetings, my brothers and sisters of Tla’amin, Powell River and qathet! So here we are: our amazing little town in the passionate throes of discussing a name change.

I attended the possible name change (PNC) open mic session on May 11 and will describe it as one of the most beautiful family feuds I have witnessed. Yes, at times it was painful to witness “bad form” from some people and uncomfortable to listen to some viewpoints but, the fact that the room was packed, with barely standing room, and we were engaged with one another was absolutely wonderful and exhilarating.

Growth can be uncomfortable and I choose to believe we can grow into a better community, respectful of each other for the common good of humanity. Here are my proposals:

1) Parallel naming. Let’s explore the idea of adding an Indigenous name.

Driving along the Sunshine Coast, most road signs have both an Indigenous and modern name. I believe this may best represent reconciliation as we acknowledge both Indigenous and modern history of the area.

This will allow a gradual, peaceful, respectful, organic morphing of the name and the comfort of what name people identify with. Although this keeps “Powell” in the name, my opinion is the people of authority in the residential schools who performed the horrific acts on the children should be held accountable for their behaviour. Israel Powell was carrying out government mandates that represented what I call “stinking thinking’ of that time.

Remember, women couldn’t vote then! Name paralleling will show acceptance and support for inclusivity on both sides of this subject in our changing culture.

It is my hope that this will allow more space for healing. Can we please have an amazing ceremony for this? I’m always into a party.

2) Referendum: Since the people of Powell River were asked to consider a name change, ask the people of Powell River.

Through a referendum, ask the question to the residents of Powell River if they support a name change and in what language? Sadly, this will omit Tla’amin residents to vote but that’s the autonomous nature of self-governing; residents of Powell River cannot vote on Tla’amin issues either.

This will be democratic and everyone within the city who cares about this subject will have their say. Judging by how divisive opinions are, we may be surprised at the results.

To me, reconciliation is a two-way relationship that develops forgiveness and trust. The way I see it, a dominant European culture landed on these shores and bullied the Indigenous people into subservience. There were many wrongs.

Today, we all reap many benefits from those times but need to move through (not over) some injustices to Indigenous people with compassion, empathy and fairness. We are navigating through this and need to recognize when we are moving toward reconciliation and not retribution.

I am guilt-free for wrongs done to Indigenous people but I feel a responsibility to help with healing of a broken culture. All our ancestors have contributed to making this region a home that we love.

If qathet means “working together, bringing together” then let’s do that with respect and love.

Henrietta Johnson is a Powell River resident.