Honouring the past

New signs in Gowlland Tod recognize First Nations history

A new sign recognizing the First Nations history in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park

A new sign recognizing the First Nations history in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park

Long before pioneers arrived on the Peninsula, this was home to the Saanich First Nations communities.

“There are thousands of years worth of history here,” Sarah Verstegen said of Tod Inlet. “What a lot of us forget is that the woods, for the First Nations, served as grocery store, hardware store and drug store. SṈITȻEȽ (pronounced ‘sneakwith’) signified a place that was rich with all they needed.”

SṈITȻEȽ is the SENĆOŦEN word for the Place of the Blue Grouse. That place is more readily known nowadays as Tod Inlet.

“Blue grouse hung so prolifically from the trees there, when they needed dinner they could walk by, bop a grouse, and prepare it and eat it,” said Verstegen, operations manager with SeaChange Marine Conservation Society.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, the society will unveil a new sign in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park, recognizing the historical significance of the site.

The sign features colourful artwork – featuring a pair of blue grouse – by Tsartlip First Nation artist Pena Elliott.

“The sign reminds us how much the land has offered over time, and that there are ways to just honour that history,” Verstegen said.

The sign unveiling is part of a free, full day event in the park, running from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a traditional salmon roast, tours of restoration sites, a table with traditional medicines, and an eelgrass shoot transplant.

SeaChange Marine Society has been transplanting eelgrass in parts of Tod Inlet for a dozen years.

“It’s been ever since we came upon eelgrass and learned 80 per cent of commercial fish use it at some point in their life cycle. And we learned we could transplant it [in Tod Inlet],” Verstegen said. “The more diversity there is ecologically, in general the healthier the place is. … The same thing happens socially. When we do restoration of the land, we’re helping cultures talk to each other.”

Entry to the park for the event is a short walk from the Wallace Drive service gate, located south of Benvenuto Avenue. Individuals who have mobility issues and are interested in attending the event can call 250-652-1662 in advance to make arrangements.