Stanley Park is known internationally as one of the world's top urban parks. An evergreen oasis of 400 hectares on the edge of downtown Vancouver, it draws more than eight million visitors annually to its beaches, forests and seawall.
But would it be just as popular if it was known as Xwayxway?
On the eve of Canada Day, a 95-year-old elder from the Squamish First Nation suggested a shift to the historic aboriginal name for the land.
More than 100 years ago, a village called Xwayxway, which is pronounced kwhy-kway, was located on the current site of Lumberman's Arch in the northeastern part of the park. The village was a central gathering spot to exchange food and supplies and to hold ceremonies such as the potlatch.
B.C. Tourism Minister Kevin Krueger immediately endorsed the idea of putting an aboriginal name alongside the current name. "Most people this day and age think that is the right thing and a pretty cool thing to do," he said Friday in an interview.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson added his unequivocal support. "It is an important thing to acknowledge our history in the name of that place for thousands of years prior to settlers coming here," he told reporters.
The early endorsements have encouraged a Squamish First Nation leader to pursue the suggestion. Ian Campbell, a hereditary chief and councillor, said Friday he intends to look for support for a formal proposal to revive the historic name among neighbouring first nations who also claim the park as part of their ancestral home.
A lot of work is currently being done to showcase aboriginal history and establish more authenticity in the names of locations in the province, Mr. Campbell said in an interview.
He pointed to Haida Gwaii, which is the new name for the Queen Charlotte Islands, and the Salish Sea for the waters also known as the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound and the Juan de Fuca Strait.
Signs on the Sea-to-Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler are now bilingual - in English and an aboriginal language. The signs give a visible presence to the aboriginal people by acknowledging the language of those who live in the area, Mr. Campbell said. The Squamish people would also like to see new names on some mountain peaks north of Vancouver, which are held sacred by the aboriginal people, he said.
The park was named for Lord Stanley, who served as governor-general in the late 19th century. The name is set out in a 99-year federal lease with the city that was rolled over two years ago. Mr. Campbell said the lease should not be an obstacle. "There are ways we can work together to strengthen our relationship," he said.
Mr. Krueger said the final decision on naming the park would be made by the federal government - which leases the land to the city - consulting with the Vancouver government. However, he was willing to carry the idea forward if the first nations would like him to do that.
Embracing aboriginal names alongside current names is part of the new relationship between the provincial government and first nations, he said. "It is an acknowledgment that they were here first, and in fact thousands of years ahead of the rest of us. It is perfectly understandable and logical and legitimate they would want aboriginal names to be used," Mr. Krueger said.
He anticipated that the name Xwayxway would not replace Stanley Park. Rather, the aboriginal name would be in addition to the current name. "Stanley Park is a world-famous name that is not going to be disappearing. It has been associated with Vancouver for generations and the park is a major tourist attraction. We would have both [names]if we do it," Mr. Krueger said. "Stanley Park will always be on the map."
Mr. Robertson said the public should be involved in a discussion about the name. "We can see how it flies," he said. "It is important for the community to talk about this and consider it and make their opinions known."