Local carvings and interpretive panels enhance forested area renamed SMONEĆTEN.

Local carvings and interpretive panels enhance forested area renamed SMONEĆTEN  

May 4, 2021                                  North Saanich, BC                    Parks Canada Agency

A forest of towering Douglas fir trees in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is now a place to appreciate Indigenous culture as well as nature, as a result of collaboration between Parks Canada and W̱SÁNEĆ (pronounced wh say nich) First Nations, whose people have been stewards of the land since time immemorial.

Today, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada and Chief Don Tom, W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council Chair announced a step toward healing as McDonald Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was renamed SMONEĆTEN (pronounced smaw nitch tun).

Four hand-carved cedar panels and an interpretive display have been installed at the campground as part of the reinstatement of W̱SÁNEĆ language, history and culture on the land. The displays share how the site was once a place to gather liquid pitch, also known as sap, from Douglas fir trees to start fires, patch canoes, heal wounds, and light lanterns. The new name comes from the local SENĆOŦEN (pronounced sen chaw thun) language and means “fir pitch place”.

SMONEĆTEN will continue to serve as a seasonal Parks Canada campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, as well as a place where visitors and community members can enjoy a forest walk. Parks Canada looks forward to resuming public programs such as Learn-to-Camp and evening campfires, often led by local Indigenous presenters, when it is safe to do so.

Parks Canada is committed to a system of national heritage places that recognizes and honours the historic and contemporary contributions of Indigenous peoples, their histories and cultures, as well as the special relationships Indigenous peoples have with ancestral lands and waters. This name change is an important step in that direction. 


“Parks Canada and Indigenous peoples are partners in conserving natural and cultural heritage and sharing the stories of these treasured places. The renaming and enhancements of SMONEĆTEN Campground in Gulf Islands National Park Reserve will help Canadians gain further appreciation of local Indigenous culture, while ensuring W̱SÁNEĆ community members of all ages see their culture and language reflected back on these lands of enduring significance.”

Jonathan Wilkinson, 

Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

“In the heart of W̱SÁNEĆ Territory, right next to the old village of W̱SI,I,KEM, SMONEĆTEN is a place where people would go to harvest the materials they needed to thrive. As these places were taken from W̱SÁNEĆ people, new names were placed on the landscape and our presence in the eyes of settlers was diminished. But, within W̱SÁNEĆ culture, this information was never forgotten. We held it tight to our chest waiting for people to listen once again. Today, I am proud to see the government begin the process of listening by taking these small steps toward preserving and honouring W̱SÁNEĆ culture and history.”

Chief Don Tom, Chairman, W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council 

The newly unveiled hand-carved wood panels at SMONEĆTEN were crafted by carvers from all four First Nations on the Saanich Peninsula: Tsartlip, Pauquachin, Tseycum and Tsawout.

SMONEĆTEN is one of many places the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council has been working to reinstate W̱SÁNEĆ culture including the renaming of ȽÁU,WELṈEW̱/ John Dean Provincial Park.

The stretch of forest was protected from encroaching development as a result of a land donation by former Member of the Legislative Assembly of BC, Alexander McDonald, to become McDonald Provincial Park in 1948. This donation will continue to be recognized through an onsite plaque. 

In 2003, with the establishment of Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, this land was transferred from the Province of BC to Parks Canada.

Parks Canada continues to collaboratively develop co-management strategies with Coast Salish First Nations for Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.

SMONEĆTEN features 49 drive-in and walk-in campsites just north of the Town of Sidney that are open from May 15 to September 30. People also frequent the area for forest walks. 

Chief Don Tom 


W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council 



Matthew Dillon

Press Secretary

Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change