SIMON NATTRASS: Mount Doug no more: reclaiming PKOLS

Over 160 years ago, a 14-year-old boy was travelling through the Camosun area to deliver news of James Douglas’ arrival...

Over 160 years ago, a 14-year-old boy was travelling through the Camosun area — then a shortcut to the villages of the WSANEC and Songhees — to deliver news of James Douglas’ arrival on the east coast of the island.

On the way, the boy was shot and killed by a farmer. The response from local indigenous groups was swift — cornered and hopelessly outnumbered at the top of a mountain, Douglas offered a truce. “The Douglas treaties were peace treaties,” says WSANEC hereditary chief Kevin Paul. “There is no land treaty.”

Nevertheless, that day went down in written history as the day Sir James Douglas bought Victoria, and Mount Doug was named in his honour. It is this myth which prompted local activists and members of the Tsawout, WSANEC, and Songhees peoples to gather last week to reaffirm the mountain’s traditional name, PKOLS (pronounced p’kawls).

While a formal request has been sent to the provincial government, speakers at last week’s event made it clear that they aren’t seeking permission to reclaim their history. “We are drawing attention to the fact that we never gave up our rights to that land,” says Paul, “nor were we consulted when the old name was paved over.”

Despite The Capital’s proud history of violent opposition to even the smallest change in our lifestyle, there was nothing adversarial about last week’s celebration atop PKOLS. “There are a lot of things that our people have to be mad about,” says Paul, “but instead of the oppressed becoming the oppressor, something inclusive was done on that day.” This action hints at the work still required to stall the ongoing process of colonization. The patchwork of planned pipelines, the logging of the Juan De Fuca Trail by developer-turned-industrialist Ender Ilkay, the coal mine recently delayed in the Comox Valley — these are the visceral effects of the same force that saw fit to name PKOLS after its herald.

A name reflects what we choose to honour as a region and as a society. PKOLS was and is a sacred place, steeped in magic and tradition. Sir James Douglas was a liar and a bigot whose life’s work laid the foundation for 150 years of injustice. Ask yourself: which name will you choose? M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Tomo Vranjes, a Greater Victoria musician and longtime fan of late rock guitar icon Eddie Van Halen, joins artist Paul Archer behind the latter’s Fort Street gallery. Archer, whose airbrushed paintings of rock greats have made him many connections in recent years, painted a likeness of Van Halen following the guitarist’s death last month from cancer. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Victoria artist’s king-sized tribute to Eddie Van Halen draws on personal connection

Paul Archer had an up close and personal day with the legendary guitarist in 1980

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

A sample of some of Lou-ann Neel’s jewelry.
Lou-ann Neel wins the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art

Originally from Alert Bay, Neel’s family is steeped in renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artists

I-Hos Gallery manager Ramona Johnson shows some of the paddles available at the retail outlet. Photo by Terry Farrell
I-Hos Gallery celebrates 25 years of promoting First Nation artwork

K’ómoks First Nation-based outlet has art from all over the country

Bard to Broadway Theatre Society may stage shows outdoors next summer. (PQB News photo file)
Qualicum Beach’s Bard to Broadway group may stage shows outdoors

Theatre society plans smaller productions due to ongoing pandemic

A new short film festival called MORVENFEST is encouraging B.C. secondary students to step into the world of film during their Christmas break. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
New film festival gives Victoria students exciting opportunity

MORVENFEST is open to all B.C. secondary students over Christmas break

Most Read