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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.


A map of early Fort Victoria, from the Provincial Archives. Call number: CM/A 153

Evidence of the city of Victoria’s colonial past is ubiquitous. One does not need to look further than the street signs or maps to see how colonists’ legacies permeate the land. The placenames that existed for millennia, marking the deep relationship between the Lək̓ʷəŋən (Songhees and Esquimalt) and W̱SÁNEĆ and the land have been supplanted by placenames that honour colonial figures, many of whom never set foot on this island. 

This project seeks to examine those placenames, tracing their roots to the people for whom they were named, and uncovers the role that these figures played in colonialism. It also maps these figures’ legacies beyond the West Coast, revealing the ways that these locations are tied to a boarder empire through naming practices. 

In researching placenames, the story of colonialism in Victoria begins to take shape, from first contact between Indigenous Peoples and European explorers, to the establishment of the fur trade, to Indigenous resistance during the expansion of British settlements, to the colonial government’s attempts at cultural genocide. These stories are captured in the names of streets, buildings, statues, mountains, and islands, always uploading white settlers as the heroes worth commemorating. 

This work asks how placenames convey a message about who has authority over the land, about whose work and perspectives get upheld, and about the ongoing state of colonialism in Canada. It is an incomplete record of locations in and around Victoria named after British royalty, explorers, and early settlers, but it presents a slice of the broader situation to begin to challenge this system. Hopefully, it will be a piece of a larger push towards decolonizing placenames and restoring authority over the land to Indigenous communities. 

Creative Commons License
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.