Musqueam Nation gives gift of new name for Vancouver's former Trutch Street

A street named after Joseph Trutch, B.C.'s first lieutenant-governor and an avowed racist, will be changed to Musqueamview Street after the city enlisted the help of the Musqueam First Nation. (Christer Waara/CBC - image credit)
A street named after Joseph Trutch, B.C.'s first lieutenant-governor and an avowed racist, will be changed to Musqueamview Street after the city enlisted the help of the Musqueam First Nation. (Christer Waara/CBC - image credit)

The xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Indian Band has gifted a new name to a street in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood — Musqueamview Street in English and šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmasəm in the Nation's hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language.

It comes after a unanimous vote by city council in July 2021 to replace the name of Trutch Street, located between Bleinheim and Balaclava Street in the western part of the city.

Musqueamview Street runs 16 blocks, with its northern apex near the water at Jericho Beach, and the southern end near Carnarvon Park. Its hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ name is pronounced sh-muck-wi-um-awe-sum.

The street — originally named after Joseph Trutch, B.C.'s first lieutenant governor — was renamed because of Trutch's racist policies against Indigenous people, including drastically reducing the size of reserves and refusing to let Indigenous people purchase land from non-Indigenous people.

 

"It's something that has been in the works for many, many years — probably several decades," said sʔəyəɬəq (suh-yuh-shl-uck, also known as Larry Grant), the manager of the Nation's language department, at a ceremony Friday to announce the new name of the street.

Four witnesses joined Grant on Friday as part of a ceremony on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation — two from xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, təlnaq̓ə (tull-nah-kuh, also known as Alec Guerin) and mən̓eʔɬ (mun-eh-shl, also known as Johnny Louis), and two from the city, Mayor Kennedy Stewart and city manager Paul Mochrie.

"I am excited for the next chapter of this street, and what this means for Vancouver," Mayor Kennedy Stewart said in a statement.

The Kitsilano neighbourhood holds many significant sites for the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm people, including what is now Jericho Beach.

"Our previous councils have been involved in trying to find a way of removing and changing that name of Trutch," sʔəyəɬəq said. "It doesn't represent anything very nice.

"It represents a person that could be called a savage, uncivilized … but educated."

The new name was the result of collaborative work between the Band's language department and the council, according to a xʷməθkʷəy̓əm statement.

təlnaq̓ə told the ceremony that the witnesses were required as part of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm tradition, given the Nation did not have written history for many years and relied on oral history.

He said the City of Vancouver was taking the "first steps" in important work as part of reconciliation, and that they were removing a memorial for a racist man and an early colonizer.

"It's important … that we replace the monument to Trutch with our language, with our identity in our territory," he said.

"But it's important we don't erase the history we need to remember, not just that we're renaming it šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmasəm. We need to remember that we named it Trutch first."

Shawn Foss/CBC
Shawn Foss/CBC

On the sombre occasion of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm Chief yəχʷyaχʷələq (yukh-yakh-uhl-uk, also known as Wayne Sparrow) said that reconciliation was just a word, and governments need to step up with action to rectify the harms done to Indigenous people.

"Our survivors that have left, our leaders that have left us, I know you are looking down on us today and this amazing crowd that we assembled here," he said.

"Each and every one of you have a job to do, to carry on the work that's being done."

Streets and institutions around B.C. that were named for Trutch have been renamed recently in the wake of the reappraisal of his racist and colonizing legacy.

In Victoria, what was once Trutch Street is now səʔit Street, pronounced say-eet.

In Richmond, the former Trutch Avenue was renamed after B.C.'s first Indigenous lieutenant-governor, Steven Point.