May 4, 2021 North Saanich, BC Parks Canada Agency
A forest of towering Douglas fir trees in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is now a place to appreciate Indigenous culture as well as nature, as a result of collaboration between Parks Canada and W̱SÁNEĆ (pronounced wh say nich) First Nations, whose people have been stewards of the land since time immemorial.
Today, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada and Chief Don Tom, W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council Chair announced a step toward healing as McDonald Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was renamed SMONEĆTEN (pronounced smaw nitch tun).
Four hand-carved cedar panels and an interpretive display have been installed at the campground as part of the reinstatement of W̱SÁNEĆ language, history and culture on the land. The displays share 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. The new name comes from the local SENĆOŦEN (pronounced sen chaw thun) language and means “fir pitch place”.
SMONEĆTEN will continue to serve as a seasonal Parks Canada campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, as well as a place where visitors and community members can enjoy a forest walk. Parks Canada looks forward to resuming public programs such as Learn-to-Camp and evening campfires, often led by local Indigenous presenters, when it is safe to do so.
Parks Canada is committed to a system of national heritage places that recognizes and honours the historic and contemporary contributions of Indigenous peoples, their histories and cultures, as well as the special relationships Indigenous peoples have with ancestral lands and waters. This name change is an important step in that direction.