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Colonial Placenames in Victoria, B.C.

An examination of colonial placenames in and around Victoria, B.C., and the colonial figures for whom they are named.

The role of explorers and early settlers

Explorers and early settlers were key players in the imperial project. These individuals took advantage of colonialism for personal gain and carried out the work necessary for these projects to succeed. Colonial governments provided explorers and early settlers with a fair bit of power and discretion to make decisions about how to deal with Indigenous Peoples. Many early settlers gained wealth, power, and fame through their participation in furthering European imperialism. 

Explorers identified opportunities to extract wealth from natural resources and potential locations for settlements to strengthen European powers. Early settlers’ reports and recommendations shaped policies and perceptions of Indigenous Peoples. They developed and enforced legislation and policies that undermined Indigenous Peoples’ human rights, from the potlatch ban, to bad-faith treaties, to negligent responses to disease outbreaks. They had the option to treat Indigenous Nations as sovereign nations, and as equals; very few explorers and early settlers seem to have done so. 

One of the main problems facing early settlers was how to establish control of the land and its resources over the Indigenous Peoples who had deep ties to the land. For many explorers and early settlers, conceiving of Indigenous Peoples as inferior either biologically or culturally justified the trickery, neglect, lies, and violence that allowed them to establish power. This bigotry underlies the colonial government's structures that exist to this day. 

Given settler Canadians’ distrust of Indigenous Oral History, mainstream accounts of Canadian history relies heavily on European and settler accounts of the early days of colonial Canada. This one-sidedness calls into question the accuracy of the presentation of our history. When considering the dominant narrative of Canadian history, one must always consider the unbalanced nature of the primary sources. However, explorers’ and early settlers’ presentations of their own perspectives and actions still often blatantly reveal their author’s own bigotry and violence. 

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This work by The University of Victoria Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless otherwise indicated when material has been used from other sources.