The WSANEC Leadership Council announced earlier this month it’ll be moving forward on a number of initiatives with the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. (Courtesy of Dominion Astrophysical Observatory)

The WSANEC Leadership Council announced earlier this month it’ll be moving forward on a number of initiatives with the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. (Courtesy of Dominion Astrophysical Observatory)

Saanich observatory to include local First Nations history

Signs will bolster presence of SENCOTEN culture, language

A Saanich observatory will soon reflect a wider scope of the region’s history.

The WSANEC Leadership Council (WLC) announced earlier this month it’ll be moving forward on a number of initiatives with the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.

The leadership council said in a news release that it’s obtained an agreement to reinstate SENCOTEN names and places, on land and in the sky. The agreement will see external signage posted with SENCOTEN language and artwork at the observatory site – similar to what was installed at SMONECTEN (the former McDonald Campground).

The signs will have WSANEC culture and history displayed along Observatory Hill, which is known as WTIXES in SENCOTEN, and within the observatory. The First Nations group said current signs only feature a western perspective.

The National Research Council of Canada told Black Press Media that its Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre is looking forward to beginning the work soon and is committed to building a long-term relationship with the WSANEC community.

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Another initiative, the leadership council said, is working to have storytellers and artists create a permanent display on WSANEC moons and stories of the night sky at the observatory.

“It’s going to be so great that our kids can go on a field trip to the observatory and see themselves and their language and culture represented,” said Joni Olsen, policy and negotiations analyst for the WLC.

A third initiative that’s in the works aims to reinstate field trips and get youth from WSANEC territory schools involved in job shadowing and educational opportunities at the observatory. Gord Elliott, the leadership council’s director of operations, said he hopes this will increase exposure to careers in science and technology for youth.

The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory is a federal heritage building. Parks Canada describes it as one of the country’s oldest and most important observatories, due to its part in helping Canada become a “world leader” in astrophysics in the early 1900s.

The observatory is currently closed due to COVID-19, but the leadership council said WSANEC school groups are on the list for visits to the facility.

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