Tuesday, January 3, 2023

The Importance of Place Names - kʷeyəlsteyt/Innes’ Corners/Langley City

Names are important as they should speak to the rich history and context of a place.

In 2016, I went on a trip to New Zealand/Aotearoa. One of the things that stood out to me was the integration of Māori names and culture into the everyday experience for people. The Māori people came to Aotearoa in the 14th century, while European explorers arrived in the 18th century.

When European settlers came, they started renaming places. In part, due to the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process, many places have either been dual-named or reverted to their original Māori name. This process continues today.

When I was there, they recently updated the train announcement on the transit system in Auckland, the largest City in New Zealand, to have proper Māori pronunciation of places.

Transit rail station names in Auckland, New Zealand. Select image to enlarge.

I’ve been thinking of the name Langley City and the importance of place names that connect us to rich histories and the land for some time. I was reminded of this again over the holidays when a friend sent me a picture of an old postcard of Langley Prairie.

Postcard of Langley Prairie (the previous name of Langley City) likely from the late 1940s. Select image to enlarge. Postcard seems to be by TC Walker of Chilliwack.

Fort Langley was named after Thomas Langley. When the Fort was founded, Mr. Langley was a Hudson’s Bay Company Governing Committee member. As far as I can tell, he lived in England and never set foot in what we call Langley today.

Present-day Langley City used to be called Innes’ Corners which was named after one of the first prominent European landowners in the area and who also served as Secretary of the local School Board. You can learn more about this history at the site Children of Fort Langley.

I’m unsure why Innes’ Corners was renamed Langley Prairie and then Langley City. It seems that Innes’ Corners would be a more significant name from a settler historical context.

What has been passed down from Kwantlen First Nation elders is that the place we call Langley City has been called kʷeyəlsteyt, pernounced Kway-ul-styte, for time immemorial.

I posted a straw poll on Twitter a few days ago asking if people would be interested in renaming Langley City. I asked this because of Thomas Langley’s weak connection to this land and the fact that two municipalities sharing that name confuse folks. While I take Twitter polls with a grain of salt, people seem interested in exploring renaming. It is certainly a conversation to continue.

I should point out that renaming Langley City is not a strategic priority of City Council or the City.

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