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Vancouver Island’s second-oldest municipality will turn 150 with a First Nations focus

North Cowichan plans to make concerted push away from previous colonial-themed anniversaries
Local First Nations will be invited to play a big part in North Cowichan’s 250th anniversary celebrations next year. (File photo)

Local First Nations are expected to play a big part in North Cowichan’s celebration of its 150th anniversary in 2023.

At the invitation of the municipality, six community members met with staff last month to discuss the anniversary, review previous celebration activities, and brainstorm initial ideas.

The community members represented the Maple Bay Community Association, Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society, and the Forest Discovery Centre.


“After much discussion and sharing of ideas, the working group identified a celebration centred on reconciliation, recognition, and remembering, with as much of an eye to the future as to the past,” a staff report from Barb Floden, North Cowichan’s communications director, said.

“Previous milestone celebrations centred on settler history from 1873 and onward and neglected the history, contributions, and stories of First Nations peoples. The working group sees 2023 as an opportunity to move away from a traditional milestone celebration.”

The Municipality of North Cowichan was incorporated on June 18, 1873.

It is the fifth oldest municipality in British Columbia after New Westminster, Victoria, Chilliwack, and the District of Langley.


Chilliwack and Langley will also celebrate their sesquicentennials in 2023.

Floden said a grant from Canadian Heritage that supports community anniversaries that North Cowichan is working to apply for is structured to support a traditional style community celebration with performers, art exhibitions, and so on.

“The working group is aiming for something a bit different and more relevant for North Cowichan’s unique geography and history,” she said.

“The idea is to incorporate the community in celebrations, learning and art, including historic walking tours, place markers and interpretive signage, exhibits at Cowichan Valley and Chemainus Valley museums, videos, banners, interactive community conversations, and First Nations celebration events. There will also be an opportunity to invite area and community organizations to host celebrations under the 150/2023 banner.”

Floden said much more work is needed to plan and execute this event, and many more volunteers will be required to coordinate even a modest celebration of this calibre.

She said the next steps include completing the Heritage Canada grant application and then awaiting the decision on the funding request.

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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