Steven Point says he's honoured to have a street named after him in Richmond, B.C., but the former lieutenant-governor hopes people won't forget the racism and injustice associated with the street's former namesake, Joseph Trutch.
Point, who is chancellor of the University of British Columbia and Grand Chief of the Stó꞉lō Tribal Council, acknowledges the street's name change is a good step toward reconciliation, but hopes people continue to learn from history, rather than "painting over the bad spots."
"We shouldn't bury our history just because we find it distasteful. Human beings have done some horrible things, but we've come a long way," he said.
"We need to acknowledge what's happened to Indigenous people, what's happened to people of colour."
The City of Richmond is one of at least three municipalities in B.C. to abandon the Trutch name in a move toward reconciliation. Vancouver councillors also voted to rename the city's Trutch Street last year.
And in February, Victoria approved the change for its Trutch Street to become Su'it Street. Su'it is the English spelling of a Lekwungen word, səʔit, which means "true or real."
Trutch, the province's first lieutenant-governor, was known for his hostility toward Indigenous peoples, often speaking of Indigenous peoples with open contempt, and working against First Nations land claims. When B.C. entered Confederation in 1871, he drastically reduced the size of reserves that had been negotiated and also refused to allow Indigenous people purchase land from non-Indigenous people.
"This is an act by the City of Richmond to acknowledge the Indigenous people, that we were here, and to acknowledge Joseph Trutch was a bad guy. He was certainly a racist," said Point, whose traditional name is Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says the decision was made at the end of March, and was effective immediately.
"We're getting constant reminders of the inadequacies of our history. It's a way to try and bring about reconciliation and to bring about better relations," he said.
Brodie says all the streets in the Terra Nova neighbourhood — where the newly named Point Avenue is located — are named after former lieutenant-governors of B.C. Point served as B.C.'s lieutenant-governor from 2007 until 2012.
"There were a number of people from the Point family who were residents in the Steveston area at an earlier time. So it was also in recognition [of], and to pay tribute to them," Brodie said.
Point's great-grandmother owned a summer fishing longhouse in what is now Steveston, which used to be a Musqueam village. His father spent time as a boy in the area, too, living with his grandmother for a time.
Point says he is in favour of renaming streets and places, but cautions against erasing painful histories.
"When we turn back and look at the steps we've [taken], we should acknowledge that's where we were and this is the distance we have come, so that our children can understand we have changed for the better."