Robyn Sealy of Parks Canada and carver Charles Elliot look at the new interpretive display unveiled May 4 at SMONECTEN, the new name of the former McDonald Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve just north of Sidney. (Parks Canada/Submitted)

Robyn Sealy of Parks Canada and carver Charles Elliot look at the new interpretive display unveiled May 4 at SMONECTEN, the new name of the former McDonald Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve just north of Sidney. (Parks Canada/Submitted)

Campground near Sidney renamed to recognize First Nations

SMONECTEN is new name of former McDonald Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve

A small ceremony held Tuesday renamed a southern Vancouver Island campground in a move recognizing Indigenous culture and connection to the land.

SMONECTEN — the new name of the McDonald Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve just north of Sidney — will continue to serve as a seasonal Parks Canada campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

Jonathan Wilkinson, minister responsible for Parks Canada, said in a release that Parks Canada and Indigenous peoples are partners in conserving the natural and cultural heritage of the region while sharing their stories.

“The renaming and enhancements of SMONECTEN Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve will help Canadians gain further appreciation of local Indigenous culture, while ensuring WSANEC community members of all ages see their culture and language reflected back on these lands of enduring significance,” he said.

READ MORE: Cowichan street sign project honours Indigenous history and culture

The new name comes from the local SENCOTEN (pronounced sen chaw thun) language and means “fir pitch place.”

WSANEC Leadership Council chair Don Tom welcomed the renaming of the site, a place where local First Nations would harvest various materials.

“As these places were taken from WSANEC people, new names were placed on the landscape and our presence in the eyes of settlers was diminished,” he said. “But, within WSANEC culture, this information was never forgotten. We held it tight to our chest waiting for people to listen once again. Today, I am proud to see the government begin the process of listening by taking these small steps toward preserving and honouring WSANEC culture and history.”

SMONECTEN is one of many places the WSANEC Leadership Council has been working to reinstate WSANEC culture including the renaming of LAU,WELNEW̱/ John Dean Provincial Park. The park now includes wood panels, which carvers from all four First Nations on the Saanich Peninsula (Tsartlip, Pauquachin, Tseycum and Tsawout) had crafted. The carvers were Charles Elliott, Doug Lafortune, Douglas “Bear” Horne, Mark Henry and James Jimmy.

The displays show how the site was once a place to gather liquid pitch, also known as sap, from Douglas fir trees to start fires, patch canoes, heal wounds, and light lanterns.

SMONECTEN features 49 drive-in and walk-in campsites just north of the Town of Sidney that are open from May 15 to Sept. 30. People also frequent the area for forest walks. Learn more and plan your visit here.

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