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Lax Kw’alaams replaces stolen and vandalized Hwy 16 informational signs

Signs outlining Allied Tribes’ history on the Lower Skeena installed at six lower Hwy 16 sites
Members of Lax Kw’alaams Allied Tribes gather for the re-installation of an informational sign at Terrace Entrance (Ts’mgigyaani) on May 3. It is one of six at significant locations along Hwy 16 between Prince Rupert and Terrace. (Photo: Lax Kw’alaams Band)

No sooner had the nine Allied Tsimshian Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams installed educational signage along Hwy 16 at six historically significant sites, than they were vandalized or stolen.

The signs containing information about the pre-contact history of the allied tribes and their territories, including Sm’algyax words for significant places, plants and wildlife, were initially set up last month.

“While this project has been a celebrated source of pride for Lax Kw’alaams members at large, the project has also seen very serious theft and vandalism to the sites,” a press release stated. “These acts of vandalism occurred immediately within hours following the initial installation of the signage on April 8th.”

Since then, Lax Kw’alaams staff, hereditary leadership, youth and members at large have conducted structural repairs to the signs and, on May 3, celebrated their reinforcement and re-installation at six locations along the Skeena River between Prince Rupert and Terrace.

A file (number 2024-2507) remains open with the Prince Rupert RCMP who are asking anyone with information on the crimes to come forward.

“These signs are a unique addition to the existing information signage along the Skeena, as they share the adaawx (oral history) of the points of interest that are stewarded by the Allied Tsimshian Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams,” the press release said.

The re-installation was marked by events at each of the six sites involving ceremony, speeches and witnessing by tribal members.

The sites are: the Tyee View Point (Klaxmaxt, ‘where to go across’), Kwinitsa East (Gwinsts’ool, ‘on place of beaver’), Exchamsiks Boat Launch (Dzagayuup, ‘across territory’), the Exstew River Boat Launch (Ksit’uu’tsk, ‘waters black’) and Terrace Entrance (Ts’mgigyaani).

“The repairs and reinforcement to the signs are in line with Lax Kw’alaams’ commitment to reinstate the signs, and the information they represent,” the release said.

While the signage was only recently placed, the project has been in the works since 2017 and is the product of several years of planning, archival research and survey work. It is a joint initiative between the Lax Kw’alaams Band Truth and Reconciliation department, Lax Kw’alaams Fisheries, Lax Kw’alaams Business Development LP and the Allied Tsimshian Tribes Association.

Joey Wesley, councillor and chair of the Rights and Title Portfolio said it is a great source of pride.

“The Skeena Signage Project means a lot to the membership of Lax Kw’alaams, but also the community at large,” he said.

“The signs make the tribal histories of the Allied Tsimshian Tribes of Lax Kw’alaams accessible to the public, aims to educate readers about the territory, and share who we are as a people. We received good feedback on the visibility of the signs – from both Lax Kw’alaams members, and members of neighbouring nations alike.”

For even greater accessibility, the project has made digital versions of the signs available on the Lax Kw’alaams website.

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Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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