Thirty street signs in downtown Duncan will include Hul’q’umi’num words.

Duncan City Council unanimously approved a motion to include this language on signs on the following streets:

Canada Avenue – Q’lhan (Ahead Of)
Government Street – St s’hwulmuhw (First People)
Station Street – Liloot (Train)
First Street – Yewen (First)
Second Street – Sxwuts’ts’ulii (Hummingbird)
Third Street – Smuyuqw’a (Ladybug)
Fourth Street – Thuthiqut (Forest)

With the approval of this request, “It would show that our language isn’t really dying and that people are still fighting to keep it alive,” said Jonathan Bill, Cowichan Tribes Youth.

Cowichan Tribes Elder Merle Seymour recalls residential schools and how First Nations youth were punished for speaking their language.

“It was all natives in the school and when we spoke our language when we got there, to the people who didn’t know how to speak, oh, we were in trouble,” said Seymour. “We’d get strapped, we used to get strapped on the hands for speaking our language and that was hard for us not to do because it was all that we knew.”

Cowichan Tribes Elder Lucy Thomas said this initiative opens the door to collaboration.

“It’s happening in little groups, here and there. I can’t wait until we’re all thinking and doing the same things and supporting and encouraging each other,” said Thomas. “Inspiring each other to make these changes to do away with racism and discrimination.”

Recently, a COVID-19 outbreak within Cowichan Tribes resulted in racist comments on social media and several councillors addressed those comments.

“The recent social media comments are reprehensible,” said Tom Duncan. “I think we have to remember that COVID-19 knows no borders, COVID-19 knows no race or ethnicity. We need to work together to protect the vulnerable people in the Cowichan Valley.”

“It’s important that we take a moment to recognize Cowichan Tribes tonight, as many of their members have been battling COVID-19,” said Councillor Stacy Middlemiss. “This pandemic has been going on for quite some time. I think many of us let our guard down when the numbers were low in our community and recently it’s hit us quickly and aggressively.”

The signs will be up throughout downtown Duncan by March 21st. That’s the day the Downtown Duncan Business Improvement Area Society grant expires.

The funding comes from the BC Rural Dividend Grant.