Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Tofino beach inches one step closer to reclaiming Indigenous name


Last week, a petition was launched by a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to rename Tofino’s Mackenzie Beach to its pre-colonization name. 

The beach was once called ‘tinwis,’ and that is what the Tla-o-qui-aht Peoples would like it to be named once again. ‘Tin,’ meaning calm and ‘wis,’ meaning beach. 

Since the 1920s, the beach in question has been called Mackenzie Beach. 

According to the book Tofino and Clayoquot Sound by local authors Ian Kennedy and Margaret Horsfield, Mackenzie Beach was named for First World War Veteran and eventual lighthouse keeper, Donald Mackenzie. 

The lighthouse he tended was located on nearby Lennard Island. He used his earnings to eventually buy a chunk of land on Mackenzie Beach. 

Since it was launched, the petition has garnered over 2,050 signatures on its way to a goal of 2,500. 

Because this matter was brought up in the media, District of Tofino staff and municipal council caught wind of it and the prospective name change was discussed at their November 14th council meeting. 

“The discussion was fairly quick,” Councillor Tom Stere told Victoria Buzz. 

“There was a resolution passed that the District of Tofino support the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations initiative to restore the name of Mackenzie Beach back to tinwis.”

“There was just a question about the process and that was answered; most of those powers to restore original names of geological features rests with the Province,” Stere continued. 


Victoria Buzz then reached out to the Province to enquire about what the process would be to have the name tinwis restored to the popular beach. 

“The BC Geographical Names Office (BCGNO) requires the submission of an official name change proposal before any changes can be considered,” said Corinna Filion, Communications Director for the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport.

She further explained that once the BCGNO gets the name change request, they then take the matter to the municipality as well as the First Nations who occupy the land in question, then time is allowed for people to comment on the name change. 

The comment period usually lasts around nine to 12 months. 

Once that is completed, the BCGNO takes everything into consideration and makes a decision. 

“Place names reflect the cultural history and heritage values of the people living in an area,” Filion told Victoria Buzz. 

“Over time, some place names may no longer represent a community’s values and name changes may be necessary. Recognizing and restoring Indigenous place names are also an important part of the Province’s commitment to truth and reconciliation calls to action.” 

As of this publication, the BCGNO say they have not received any official request for the name change from the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. 

Curtis Blandy

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