A long-awaited, but "never forgotten journey" has resulted in a new step towards reconciliation.
Today (July 1), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) First Nation unveiled ƛ̓éxətəm — pronounced tla-hut-um — as the new regional park and adjacent road name to officially replace Colony Farm in a partnership with the Metro Vancouver Regional District.
It's translation: "be invited."
The local First Nation said it chose this name to reflect its traditional welcome to all visitors and residents, and to express generosity for what its ancestral territories have to offer.
"We are only 126 members, but they are the heartbeat of a million. When you tell them they can't do it, they take it on and they will move mountains and that is proof of today," said Kwikwetlem Coun. George Chaffee during an official ceremony at the park.
"When we stand here today in front of you, the renaming is more than just a name to everyone. It's a start of a journey for a brand new day, where we see Canada, British Columbia, Metro Vancouver, and anyone from the outside that Kwikwetlem is standing up for its rights, standing up for its elders, standing up for its children and changing history, and this today will be remembered for 100 years from now."
@tricitynews “Be invited.” 🤲🏞️ #tricitynews #kwikwetlem #coquitlam #metrovancouver #regionalpark #newname #beinvited ♬ New Beginnings
Colony Farm was given to the park in the early 1900s.
It's association with colonialism and displacement of Indigenous peoples instilled heartache and horrible memories to Kwikwetlem families and members of past and present.
Chaffee believes ƛ̓éxətəm Regional Park can not only help in healing, but can allow others to join the process, including non-Indigenous people who visit the outdoor site, which includes nearly 12 km of trails and is home to several wildlife species.
"We as Kwikwetlem people have lost our our language, [but] not fully," added Chaffee.
"There are still people in our community and elders that speak the language, but it is has been harmed and we've almost lost it. We are trying now to bring it back in a good way to the community. In doing that, we, like Metro Vancouver, are learning as we go along in our journey. While we're doing that, we are going to make mistakes. And, that's okay because that's what learning is all about."
The announcement took place on the third anniversary of Kwikwetlem's Land Code ratification, now known as Kwikwetlem Day for the First Nation every July 1.
On that day in 2020, Chaffee explained the First Nation took back their own government and the right to manage its two reserves without Ottawa's oversight, held since 1876.
He said it also means Kwikwetlem can continue to rebuild its community "piece by piece."
"We're becoming stronger as a community. It is hard journey for my nation because, like most First Nations in British Columbia, we have gone through the residential schools, we have gone through the missing children, we have gone through the hurt and pain for almost 120 years. So you can well imagine that this is going to take time for my community and my elders to heal and understand the journey that we need to do in order to do that."
ƛ̓éxətəm is the second regional park to receive a new name in three years after Belcarra Regional Park was given təmtəmíxʷtən in 2021 — language of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation meaning "the biggest place for all the people."
John McEwen, Metro Vancouver's vice-chair of regional parks, believes the public can learn a lot from their local First Nation in taking steps to build meaningful relationships and strengthen community connections.
"Over the coming months, visitors to [ƛ̓éxətəm] park will see significant changes to reflect the new name and will have opportunities to learn about the history and culture of the Kwikwetlem First Nation," said McEwen, also the mayor of Anmore.
"This renaming is an amazing step, and it's far from the last. We still have a long path ahead."
In a statement, Metro Vancouver said the park is the last of the natural areas holding life for the Coquitlam Watershed, of which Kwikwetlem peoples have a close connection with its environment.
This includes for the use of hunting, berry picking, fishing and other day-to-day activities.
Online searches will still show "Colony Farm Regional Park," but Kwikwetlem First Nation said its is in the process of making sure it can be formally changed in the weeks and months to come.
Dignitaries on hand for ƛ̓éxətəm Regional Park's unveiling included Kwikwetlem Chief Ron Giesbrecht and Coun. Stephanie Patterson, Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and seven city councillors, Port Coquitlam Coun. Steve Darling, Metro Vancouver board chair George Harvie, Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce CEO Leslie Courchesne.