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EDITORIAL – The case for naming a mountain after ‘a white dude’

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 mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (7843 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on EDITORIAL – The case for naming a mountain after ‘a white dude’

  1. Gordon Pattie // January 25, 2020 at 9:13 PM // Reply

    Stop imposing this kind of settler crap on the existing unceded landscape. You do not need to name it after another settler. This is very disrespectful and should stop. The guy you want to name it for white washed away much of the FN heritage of BC with signs that only celebrate the settler history. Shame.

  2. David Prytula // January 21, 2020 at 2:30 PM // Reply

    I nominate the peak be named after former Simpcw Chief,resident of Chu Chua ,TRU chancellor Nathan Matthew for the lifelong efforts he and his family have committed to educating those around them in all aspects of our society.And then he be given the opportunity to post cultural signs and plaques throughout Wells Gray as to the Indigenous names of the various locations that have meaning.,in english and Secwepemc..

  3. I.and a great many others I’m sure are getting tired of the word ” Indigenous”.

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