Strait of Georgia or Salish Sea?
Published Monday, March 10, 2008 8:28PM PDT
A proposal by a Vancouver Island First Nation band to rename the Strait of Georgia the Salish Sea has people across B.C. asking: What's in a name?
For the Chemainus First Nation on Vancouver Island, renaming the strait - the section of ocean between Vancouver Island and B.C.'s mainland -- would recognize the original inhabitants of Canada's west coast.
Band members pitched the name Salish Sea to B.C. government ministers as a name that's been catching on among natives in the area.
And the government of British Columbia -- celebrating its 150th anniversary -- says it will explore the name change.
"It's something we should be considering," Premier Gordon Campbell told reporters Monday.
He said the name change would be a matter of "respect" that shows the history of the province reaches back much farther than the arrival of Europeans.
And he pointed to the Haida Gwaii -- islands off B.C.'s coast that were named the Queen Charlotte Islands -- as an example of how this could work.
Natives have been living on the coast for at least 8,000 years before Europeans sailed ships into Burrard Inlet.
But it was Captain George Vancouver who gave a name to the body of water in 1792, when he named it "Gulf of Georgia" after King George III.
In that monarch's long reign, from 1760 to 1820, and he defeated France in the Seven Years' War but lost the American colonies after the American Revolution.
The idea isn't popular with some monarchists, who oppose a loss of culture if the name was adopted.
"Quite frankly it's a terrible idea," said Keith Roy of the Monarchist League of Canada. "It was named... for someone of historical significance at the time, and there's no reason to throw that out."
And some native leaders have said that there are more pressing issues facing B.C.'s native population than name changes, pointing to poverty and a lack of education.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said it would be a symbolic gesture on behalf of the province.
However, he says his focus is on more important issues.
Renaming the Strait of Georgia would require a formal application to the Geographical Names Board of Canada.