We have this little etching by Gordon Kit Thorne hanging in our hall. It is called Siwash Rock and represents a landmark off Stanley Park in Vancouver.
I remember hearing that the name Siwash was derogatory, but never knew in what way until this week. Apparently siwash is a corruption of the French word sauvage (savage in English). Myth had it that the rock represented a figure on an Indigenous man. The name Siwash is clearly offensive, once you know what it means.
I’m not sure whether or not Siwash Rock has a new name today, but I came across the etymology when I was following up on a story about the Toronto District School Board’s removing the word chief from various TDSB job titles in deference to feelings of Indigenous people.
That the word chief could be offensive had never occurred to me. Its use predates European contact with First Nations people, but leaders of Indigenous groups have been called chiefs. I thought chief just meant head, as in Head of State. In Canada, that would be the Queen of England. Maybe if we called her the Chief of State, she wouldn’t like it.