Light Up the Pier event with the permanent sign acknowledging both Powell River and Tla’amin Nation. Photo by Cindy Elliott.

The City of Powell River has established a working group with members of the Tla’amin First Nation to dig into how to best honour the Tla’amin request for the municipality to change its name. But there is no great rush to the finish line.

The request, made mid-2021, came from the new Tla’amin administration who want the name Powell repealed. The city was named for Dr. Israel Wood Powell, British Columbia’s first Superintendent of Indian Affairs.

Historian Colin Osmond, who works with the Tla’amin Nation, wrote in The Powell River Peak in July 2021 that Powell was “an agent of colonialism who advocated for residential schools and the dismantling of Indigenous culture and governance systems.” Additionally, Osmond refers to historical records which reveal that Powell, along with other officials, abused their positions of authority to claim resource-rich Tla’amin territory as Crown Land, while personally benefiting from these “backroom deals.”

But the history that the working group wants to share goes back much further than the late 1800s.

Group member and City Councillor Cindy Elliott said it’s too early to reveal any details about the education pieces that will be communicated to the wider community. Part of creating safe space within the group for some painful conversations around these topics is that nothing is shared until it’s finalized by the group. The next steps include agreeing on terms of reference that will set out the group’s goals and a timeline, with the intent to share an information campaign prior to the municipal election this fall.

The entire undertaking is carefully executed within the parameters of the historical Community Accord, an understanding of mutual respect between the two communities, one municipal and one Indigenous. It was first signed in 2003 and updated in 2018.


Listen to the full CKTZ News interview with Powell River City Coun. Cindy Elliott below:

This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative.