xʷməθkʷəy̓əm erases Trutch from street name, but won’t forget his racist legacy

The community revealed the title šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmasəm, or Musqueamview Street, in a renaming ceremony on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
Two men in orange shirts stand in front of a wood wall
Musqueam Chief yəχʷyaχʷələq Wayne Sparrow, left, and mən̓eʔɬ Johnny Louis attend a ceremony to rename Trutch Street in “Vancouver” to Musqueamview. Photo by Amei-lee Laboucan

xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Musqueam Indian Band has revealed a new name for a street in their homelands which was formerly titled after an English colonizer remembered for his anti-Indigenous policies and racist views.

During a renaming ceremony on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the name of Trutch Street was replaced with šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmasəm — a hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ title known as Musqueamview Street in English.

xʷməθkʷəy̓əm gifted the new name to “Vancouver” after a unanimous vote by city councillors in July to replace the name because of the racist legacy of late former “British Columbia” lieutenant governor Joseph Trutch.

The audience for the renaming ceremony, with the middle being Musqueam members. Photo by Musqueam communications officer Odette Wilson

The ceremony at the Musqueam Community Centre on Friday was hosted by sʔəyəɬəq Larry Grant — the manager for xʷməθkʷəy̓əm’s language and culture department and Elder at the University of British Columbia. 

He spoke to a large crowd of people from xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and others in attendance about the city and province’s roles in colonization and the oppression of Indigenous people. 

He said Trutch was responsible for decreasing the size of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm’s land base — the entire city of “Vancouver” is located on xʷməθkʷəy̓əm lands as well as Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and səlilwətaɬ.

Various historical accounts detail how Trutch held cruel, racist views — extreme even in comparison even to those of his fellow colonizers — and believed white settlers were superior and entitled to Indigenous land.

“Trutch arrived in B.C. in 1859, and in the 1860s became B.C.’s Chief Commissioner of Land and Works,” a statement from xʷməθkʷəy̓əm explains. 

“He was openly hostile to First Nations, denied the existence of Aboriginal rights, and did not recognize previously established Indian Reserves, which resulted in reserves shrinking throughout the province.”

Undoubtedly, the land policies enacted by Trutch continue to have their effect on Indigenous communities across the province today. The ties between the erasure of Indigenous lands, the theft of Indigenous children from their families and the loss of culture are all inextricably linked.

šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmasəm, or Musqueamview Street, is located in the “Kitsilano” area, which xʷməθkʷəy̓əm notes is home to many significant sites for the community including sən̓aʔqʷ, ʔəy̓alməxʷ, sk̓ʷəyəw̓s, and t̕ᶿəmt̕ᶿaməls.

Since the renaming event was held on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, also known as Orange Shirt Day, Grant acknowledged he atrocities Indigenous children went through at residential “schools” — and reminded guests that “B.C.” has also had a role in the Chinese head tax, Japanese internment camps and Komagata Maru.

Grant said the “issues leading up to Truth and Reconciliation is something we all have to carry in our hearts.” He also said: “we all have to come together.”

Musqueam band councillors handed out cards that showed the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm and English name replacing Trutch street in the Kitsilano neighbourhood. Photo by Amei-lee Laboucan

It is customary in xʷməθkʷəy̓əm culture to invite witnesses to a ceremony — and the responsibility of a witness is to observe and share the events for future generations. Four witnesses were invited to the renaming ceremony, which included xʷməθkʷəy̓əm witnesses təlnaq̓ə Alec Guerin and mən̓eʔɬ Johnny Louis. 

The City of “Vancouver” witnesses were Mayor Kennedy Stewart and City Manager Paul Mochrie, who acknowledged their role as part of a colonial system and vowed to do more.

“Erasing the name is to erase the history,” said Guerin. 

“It’s important to rename [Trutch Street] in our language with our history, but to remember why it was named Trutch and why we renamed it today.”

Chief yəχʷyaχʷələq Wayne Sparrow echoed this sentiment.

“We must not forget the history of denying Indigenous rights and the work put in by our ancestors to ensure our rights were recognized,” he said in a statement

təlnaq̓ə Alec Guerin, one of four witnesses outside of the Musqueam Community Centre where the renaming ceremony was held on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Photo by Amei-lee Laboucan

mən̓eʔɬ Johnny Louis, a survivor of residential “school,” was the second witness called to share his remarks. He shared some of the detrimental effects that colonial assimilation policies have had on his life. 

He also spoke about how his community and his relationship with Chief Sparrow helped him through tough times. 

Louis now works with children and youth in the community sharing xʷməθkʷəy̓əm canoe culture.

“We’re strong, we’re still here today, we continue to fight today,” said Louis.

Help us raise $25,000 to get justice for Indigenous families who have lost their children

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