STAHN: Just stop with this effort to recognize First Nations culture

It’s no secret that First Nations bands around the province are struggling to preserve their culture and language. In an effort to recognize our Secwépemc community, Kamloops city council members agreed to have staff look into the possibility of adding the traditional language of our local First Nations to our stop signs.

But when staff came back with a legal opinion that adding a second language to stop signs would not meet the requirements set out in the Motor Vehicle Act, city council still spent 20 minutes debating the merit of adding ‘estil,’ the Secwépemc word for stop, to city stop signs.

Instead of focusing on what else could be done to incorporate more of the local First Nations culture into our city fabric, much of the discussion centred around whether people would know to stop if a second language was featured on the signs.

Time was spent discussing whether people would still recognize the red octagonal sign as meaning stop, why reserves and Quebec can have a different language on their signs and even whether local First Nations should be recognized.

There was overwhelming support for finding additional ways to recognize this traditional culture. My question to Coun. Donovan Cavers, the council member who spearheaded the stop sign movement and kept the conversation geared towards the red signs on Tuesday, is: What about stop signs signifies Secwépemc culture to you? Why the need to focus on such a small piece of real estate that doesn’t even showcase the culture?

We do feature Aboriginal art in the city and most special events begin with an acknowledgement that we are on the traditional territory of the Secwépemc people, yet the idea of finding another way to honour the Secwépemc culture and even to help them preserve their dying language is still definitely worth pursuing. But we can find a better way than a stop sign. We would be better off to showcase the culture through the arts or stories the First Nations people are really known for.

We already have something here a lot of other cities don’t have. For the most part we have a respectful relationship between Kamloops and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc residents and integrated, welcoming communities. Now we just need to figure out how to keep that going in a way that works for both communities, and is allowed by provincial law.

To contact a reporter, email Jennifer Stahn at or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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