A downtown Quesnel park has been renamed to the First Nation whose traditional territory it resides.
On National Indigenous Peoples Day, Tuesday, June 21, at 2:15 p.m., it was announced that Ceal Tingley Memorial Park would be renamed Lhtako Dene Park.
“All of the land along the river is traditional territory. There were a lot of fishing camps that used to be up and around this river,” said Jim Edgar, who works with the Lhtako Dené Nation and provided an opening prayer followed by smudging.
The historic park where the Fraser and Quesnel rivers meet was initially named for Ceal Tingley, who arrived in Quesnel with his pioneering parents in 1920, and was the mayor of Quesnel from 1970 to 1976.
Lhtako Dené Nation councillor Raymond Aldred called the renaming a big step toward reconciliation, thanking Quesnel mayor and council.
“It’s a great honour to stand here today and honour our traditional territory,” said elder’s group president Byrant Paul, telling everyone to remember the children who never made it home from residential school.
Paul said he was one of the fortunate ones who made it back and still thinks of it today, bringing tears to his eyes for those who did not survive.
“I ask the Creator today to watch over everyone one of us, to give us strength to go on,” Paul added “We came out of [residential] school, and we came out fighting.”
Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson noted the historical significance of the area.
For years the city’s mayor and council embarked on the process of putting reconciliation into action beyond spoken words and worked on fostering relationships with First Nations in the area.
“We went from arms crossed and who are you, to a relationship where we could laugh together between both councils that eventually led to a protocol agreement and the sharing of gifts,” Simpson said. “But throughout that whole process, we kept saying to chief and council we also want to restore the Lhtako culture and history to the riverfront that the Lhtako settled for millennia. “
According to Simpson, Chief Clifford LeBrun wanted to wait until the timing was right and did not want protests within the community as in Prince George when the former Fort George Park was renamed Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park.
“It was only about three or four months ago that chief and council said we think the time is right, the relationship is strong enough,” Simpson said, noting Lebrun could not attend Tuesday’s announcement.
“For the last two years, our staff has been working particularly with Lhtako elders on trying to find out how we could the bring history and culture of Lhtako into this place that is sacred and special to the nation,” Simpson continued.
“Our intention is for it to become a special place that tells the Lthako history in special ways.”
Following the announcement, two signs featuring artist renderings of a soon-to-be-installed monument, interpretative signage and a large sign welcoming park users to the territory of the Lhtako Dené Nation were revealed.
A metal sculpture of a traditional dip netter and sockeye salmon will be placed where a steam shovel and steam pump used by the Cariboo Hydraulic Mining Company for their Bullion Mine will be removed.
The steam shovel and steam pump will return to the community of Likely where they will be installed at the Bullion Pit Lookout Site, complementing the other steam shovel currently displayed at Cedar Point Provincial Park.
“Chief Lebrun and I have talked many times and part of what we hope is that by allowing our First Nations to see themselves in our community, to see their history expressed and their culture, we can begin to restore pride of self in the community,” Simpson said. “We can begin to address some of those long-term wrongs.”
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