Thursday, June 29, 2017

Councillor Thorkelson promotes prospect of Sm'algyax to be included in future naming projects for the city

The process of naming local streets
and landmarks after Charles Hays
and other white males may soon be under
review by a City Committee
Councillor Joy Thorkelson introduced a notice of motion of sorts at Monday's City Council session, setting the path ahead for council members to review their plans when it comes to a Naming committee that is to be tasked to address such areas as naming of new street names and public buildings in the community.

The thrust of Ms. Thorkelson thoughts on the topic for Monday was her desire to see the City better reflect the First Nations of the region, and one of the first areas that she believes can assist to that goal is to incorporate Sm'algyax into future naming opportunities in Prince Rupert.

As part of her presentation to Council members, she explained how she was seeking a discussion to develop a policy for the Community Naming committee that would give recognition that Prince Rupert is situated on the traditional territory of the Tsimshian First Nations and how a large majority of place and street names already established within the city do not reflect Tsimshian culture or heritage.

Adding that she would like to see at least 75 per cent of the new names that may come in the future to reflect Tsimshian culture or heritage and written in Sm'algyax and English.

Council will be looking at a proposal
from Councillor Thorkelson to begin
to introduce Sm'algyax and Tsimshian
place names to future street sign replacements
As to how she would like to see the Committee operate moving forward, the Councillor offered up the concept that would see a list of  proposed names submitted to  the First Nations of Metlakatla, Lax Kw'alaams, Kitkatla, Gitga'at and Kitsumkalum to ensure that there no objections, or historical inaccuracies or divisive names.

She also suggested that the city may wish to have those communities become active in the naming process and suggest the names that could be used in the future.

As for the addition of Sm'algyax to the street signs, she noted that when any present street signs are in need of replacement and if a street name in English is translatable, the Sm'algyax name should also be added to the sign.

The main thrust of her presentation to Council was to create a policy to address what she described as the prominence of white upper class male names that currently make for the street names across the city.

"It's a policy, not just having a naming committee deciding on what kind of, what I would consider white upper class male names we could add to the streets of Prince Rupert, or how many more Charles Hays' that we could have. I would suggest that we need a policy and I think that in recognition that almost fifty percent of our community is First Nations and that we are on the unceded traditional territory of the Tsimshian, that I would suggest that we develop some kind of a policy to refelct that"

Councillor Mirau offered up the suggestion that her comments should be treated as a notice of motion and that she should work out some of the details for her proposal and then inform the Corporate Administrator when it the topic would be ready for further discussion by Council.

More on her presentation can be reviewed fro our Council Timeline Feature.

You can review some of her talking points on the theme from the City's Video Archive page starting at the one hour, thirteen minute mark.

To get a look at what some of the translations from English to Sm'algyax might look like for the future, a helpful learning tool is available through the SD52 website and the Sm'algayax Living Legacy Talking Dictionary.

The resource was created to assist students who were taking language courses with UNBC.

More notes related to Monday's City council session can be found on our archive page here.

A wider overview of some of the key discussion topics from Council sessions can be reviewed on our Council Discussion Page.


  1. Perhaps they should Re:Think "Hays 2.0" while they're at it.

  2. Really?? Let's not worry about our infrastructure falling apart. We can put funding for that project to good use making new street signs! When will it be time to consider honouring men and women of European or Asian cultures without whose backbreaking efforts this town would not be in existence today?

    1. Well, it would seem that some of that concern on European culture (not so much Asian it would seem) has been addressed already over the years, take a walk around town and along some of our streets and look up for some examples.

      But as Ms. Thorkelson notes, there is room for improvement to the current policy that is certain, though perhaps a better ratio would be helpful and with a little less bombast as to gender.

      A look at the cost involved probably should be part of any review for changes to the current signs and such, making the change for any new signs and buildings that are put in place shouldn't be too large a burden however.

      They may be looking for participants for the naming committee so keep an eye on City hall for more notes on that.

      Your point on the infrastructure is a valid one though, the recent discussion at Council on the RCMP building just one of a number of issues that this council will have to move on before the next election.