Annie Smith of the Tsartlip First Nation and Barb Henry of the Pauquachin First Nation bless the sign bearing the name of LAU,WELNEW,AUTW given to the Saanich Peninsula Hospital. The ceremony held Tuesday afternoon is part and parcel of a larger effort to recognize local First Nations. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Indigenous ceremony marks renaming of Saanich Peninsula Hospital

Hospital now bears the name LAU,WELNEW,AUTW or ‘a place of healing’

A local First Nations elder welcomes the renaming of a regional hospital, but also calls for additional measures to recognize Aboriginal culture in the health care system.

“This is a start, but we need to do something more important, and that is to take a look at how we can get people, who work in the hospital to understand not only our language but also our culture,” said Tom Sampson, an elder and former chief of the Tsartlip First Nation. “It’s not just about medicine,” he said later. “It’s being able to go there and help those who are not feeling well, talk to them, encourage them.”

He made these comments after the unveiling of a new sign that gives the Saanich Peninsula Hospital the Indigenous name of LAU,WELNEW,AUTW, as chosen by the WSANEC people and approved by the chiefs of the four local First Nations and language experts. Written in the SENCOTEN language of the Coast Salish people, the name translates to ‘a place of healing’ and pays tribute to nearby Mount Newton.

RELATED: Nurse comes home to ‘dream job’ at Saanich Peninsula Hospital

Sampson, who helped to spearhead the renaming with Jane Fox, Aboriginal liaison nurse, said First Nations had previously referred to the hospital as ‘a place where sick people are in,’ an unwelcoming phrase.

“We didn’t like it, because it doesn’t fit in with the teaching of our long houses,” said Sampson.

“A lot of our people come here to this hospital, and we were trying to encourage them to start using our language for healing because we know why we come here when we are not feeling very well. So we have been asking the hospitals to try using a different way of describing what a hospital is in our language and that is when we came up with that word LAU,WELNEW,AUTW.”

Alana Nest, a member of the Island Health board of directors, said in her remarks that the name reminds of the linkage between wellness and culture.

“Supporting the rejuvenation of the language is an important step in reconciliation,” she said. “We know more work needs to be done, but this is an important first step in listening and understanding what is important to the people of the WSANEC communities.”

The re-naming of the hospital has been part and parcel of a larger process of recognizing Indigenous elements and traditions in local health care, a point physically manifested by the sign’s location near four 15-foot totem poles created by carvers from each of the four nations in the area — the Tsartlip, Tsawout, Tseycum and Pauquachin. Their names also appear on the sign.

Tuesday’s unveiling ceremony started just after 1 p.m. in front of an audience of some 50 people consisting of local First Nations, hospital patients, staff and representatives from Island Health.

Led by Al Sam, the unveiling ceremony featured songs from a Tsartlip First Nation drum group and a blessing ceremony featuring Annie Smith of Tsartlip, Barb Henry of Pauquachin and Patti Underwood of Tsawout.

Tsartlip Chief Don Tom said the sign marks progress. “With this, our families will always be welcome here and to seek healing here,” he said. “It pleases myself and it pleases our Elders to see our traditional language being in our territory. It’s not only good to hear, but also good to see.”

Tsawout Chief Nick Claxton emphasized the strong historical and cultural bonds between the four nations and the surrounding land referenced in the name.

“The land is healing, the language is healing, so I am really happy that it is being brought forward and used to acknowledge that this is an important place too for our people,” he said.

Local MLA Adam Olsen, a member of the Tsartlip First Nation, referenced his own personal history during his remarks.

“This is the place where my niece was born, one of the last kids to be born here in this facility,” he said. “It is the place that we bring our family members when they need help for their health, and it is the place that three of my grandparents have come and spent the last days of their lives.”

Olsen said it is important to see SENCOTEN words re-attach to local places as First Nations and non-First Nations work towards building and re-building relationships.

“I think this is a tribute to all the people that have come together to ensure that no matter how many steps we have taken back, that we are still plodding forward in our efforts to reconcile and to be better neighbours and to be friends and to have relationships,” he said.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

First NationsSaanich Peninsula

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

Just Posted

COVID-19: Access school resources with new virtual education hub

Shaw and EVERFI create onling learning resource for Canadian youth

Frontline volunteers bring handwashing stations to Pandora tent city and beyond

‘The basic premise of this is to fight COVID-19 … right?’

Victoria councillors want city greenhouses used for food production during COVID-19

Couns. Ben Isitt and Jeremy Loveday are proposing new food security strategies

West Shore podcast highlights COVID-19 pandemic and local businesses

Westshore Business podcast to look at how businesses handle COVID-19

Sooke businesses respond in time of crisis

Sooke Emergency Operations Centre met with business community to discuss impact of COVID-19

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

World COVID-19 update: NATO suspicious of Russian military drills; Cruise ships ordered to stay at sea

Comprehensive update of coronavirus news from around the world for Wednesday, April 1

6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes B.C. Interior

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout the Okanagan

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

Quarantined B.C. mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Surrey’s Christine Williams shares family’s challenges, strengths

Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Most Read