An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT honouring people who have contributed to the development of the province would become so controversial?
A mountain on the edge of Wells Gray Park is in need of a name, and the B.C. Heritage Branch has proposed that it be named Mount Lyons after the late Peter Chester Lyons.
Like me, you might not have known there’s a peak in need of a name, and might never have heard of Peter Chester Lyons.
Not surprisingly, objections have quickly surfaced. Archeologist Joanne Hammond has tweeted that Lyons was “a white dude who was instrumental in dispossessing vast areas of unceded lands into the parks system.”
She’s also been quoted as saying the plan to name the peak after Lyons is a continuation of “colonial rebranding.”
Since when is establishing parks a bad thing? Let’s take a look at this man who “dispossessed” indigenous lands. “Chess” Lyons, as he was known, worked for the B.C. Ministry of Lands exploring and mapping Wells Gray Park after it was created in 1940.
He did similar work in Tweedsmuir and Manning parks and was also largely responsible for the establishment of Barkerville as a protected historic attraction.
He designed the “Stops of Interest” signs at historic sites around the province, and invented the popular “Garbage Gobblers” at viewpoints. Lyons also wrote several books. He looks like a fine choice.
The Heritage Branch has reached out to outdoors groups, political bodies and First Nations for input, which is a good process. So far, nobody seems to know if the peak in question has an indigenous historical name.
Maybe there’s a better choice than Chess Lyons, but it’s unfair to characterize him as someone who dispossessed indigenous lands. He should be given a fair shot.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.