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BC Ferries rejects colonial vessel name, honours First Nation

Ferry had long run with name matching Penelakut community’s Kuper residential school
BC Ferries unveiled its renamed Pune’luxutth vessel on Dec. 1. The renaming was done in partnership with the Penelakut Tribe, which is serviced by the vessel. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

After it long shared the name of a residential school, the ferry servicing Penelakut Island has been renamed to represent the community’s Indigenous heritage.

BC Ferries unveiled the renamed Pune’luxutth vessel at a ceremony in Victoria on Friday (Dec. 1). The vessel previously known as MV Kuper has served the Chemainus-Thetis-Penelakut route since 2007.

The Penelakut Tribe chose the vessel’s new name, which represents the Hul’qumi’num language word for Penelakut and means two logs half-covered with sand, according to the tribe.

“Penelakut Tribe is relieved to see the removal of the colonial name Kuper; furthermore, we are proud to see the use of our Hul’qumi’num language,” said Penelakut Tribe Coun. Josh James. “We look forward to continue building our relationship with BC Ferries.”

Penelakut Tribe members gather for the unveiling of BC Ferries’ renamed Pune’luxutth vessel on Dec. 1. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

“We’re gathered here obviously for a very special occasion, one that I think is both significant and essential,” BC Ferries CEO Nicolas Jimenez said, addressing a number of Penelakut Tribe elders and community members.

The renaming represents BC Ferries’ ongoing partnerships with Indigenous and coastal communities and reminds the company of its responsibility to safeguard and preserve B.C. waterways and the communities that depend on them, he added. The CEO said the renaming demonstrates the commitment to acknowledging past wrongs and corrects hurtful historical naming.

“It acknowledges that we sail the same coastal waterways as Indigenous Peoples from up and down the coast as they have forever.”

BC Ferries CEO Nicolas Jimenez speaks at the unveiling of the renamed Pune’luxutth vessel on Dec. 1. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Penelakut member James Charlie said he wasn’t allowed on the upper decks when he first rode with BC Ferries, and now ships are being named after his home community.

“In my grandfather’s days, this was unheard of, now we’re starting to build a dialogue (between) First Nation people and non-First Nation people, it’s really good to witness,” he said. “This reconciliation has brought about slow change, but it’s a beginning, it’s a start and I love it.”

“It’s a very special day for us to witness, this is part of history.”

Esquimalt Nation’s Suzie Thomas, who opened Friday’s event with a traditional welcome, thanked BC Ferries for involving their people and said “I’m really happy that we’re all starting to come together to work together as one.”

The Pune’luxutth vessel is undergoing a months-long refit and is set to resume sailing on Dec. 9.

A Penelakut Tribe elder raises her hands during a blessing at the unveiling of the renamed Pune’luxutth vessel on Dec. 1. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

READ: B.C.’s ‘largest symbol of colonialism’ now lined with Indigenous signage

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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