Hul’q’umi’num Signage Project ​ / ​Nanum tu Sul-hween i tu Smuneem

January 18, 2021

DUNCAN – The Downtown Duncan Business Improvement Area (DDBIA) is thrilled to announce that Duncan City Council has passed our initiative to install bilingual Hul’q’umi’num and English street signs in downtown Duncan.

Hul’q’umi’num is the language traditionally spoken by our local Indigenous community, Cowichan Tribes. Street names will now appear in both English and Hul’q’umi’num on signage for seven streets. Traffic signs will not be changed.

Mayor and council appreciate the vision of the Elders and Youth of Cowichan Tribes who worked with the DDBIA to bring this gift to life in our Downtown Core. “This is such a great step. We will all celebrate the day the signs go up and look forward to working together on more projects that brings Quw’utsun’ presence into the City,” stated Mayor Michelle Staples. Now she says, “we work on honouring the project by learning the significance of the names, their meaning and the proper pronunciation.

The streets which have been given a Hul’q’umi’num translation or title include Canada Avenue, Government Street, Station Street, and 1st – 4th Streets.

Moving forward, signs on those streets will read as follows:

  • Canada Avenue​ – Q’lhan Shelh Government Street​ – St s’hwulmuhw Shelh
  • Station Street​ – Liloot Shelh First Street​ – Yuwen Shelh
  • Second Street​ – Sxwuts’ts’ulii Shelh
  • Third Street​ – Smuyuqw’a Shelh
  • Fourth Street​ – Thuthiqut Shelh

Each of these names was chosen for the significance of the Hul’q’umi’num word in Cowichan Tribes’ culture or provides either a direct translation of the English name or a close translation of the English title

For Canada Avenue, Q’lhan Shelh was chosen because the original name of the avenue is “Front Street” and “Q’lhan means “ahead of.” Smuyuqw’a means ladybug, an important figure in Cowichan story-telling, while Yuwen means first. Liloot means train, for the railway station for which Station Street is named.

The DDBIA is also producing signs in Hul’q’umi’num to distribute to member businesses welcoming shoppers. The signs will read “Tth’ihwum ‘i mi nuwilum. Huy ch q’u” indicating “Please come in. Thank you.”

The Hul’q’umi’num Signage project, or “Nanum tu Sul-hween i tu Smuneem” in Hul’q’umi’num, results from a partnership between the Downtown Duncan BIA, Cowichan Tribes, and the City of Duncan. The DDBIA hopes that this initiative will reflect the downtown business community’s leadership in building relationships and fostering meaningful connections with Cowichan Tribes. While Cowichan Tribes members have recently experienced racism from some members of the community, member businesses in the DDBIA want Cowichan Tribes members to feel welcome in our shops.

The Hul’q’umi’num signage project began in 2019 when the DDBIA partnered with Cowichan Tribes and the City of Duncan to apply for the provincial Rural Dividend Grant.

Between June and December 2019, the DDBIA engaged in a consultation process with Cowichan Tribes to learn Hul’q’umi’num and the story behind the English street names in downtown Duncan. The special committee of Cowichan Tribes and the DDBIA used this knowledge to discuss possible Hul’q’umi’num translations for a select group of streets’ names.

Due to COVID-19, the project was paused in 2020. However, as the community adjusts somewhat to the new normal, this project presents a starting point for a revitalization of the downtown alongside a revitalization of Hul’q’umi’num. We hope this initiative will beautify the downtown in an inclusive way while highlighting the importance of our relationship with Cowichan Tribes, whose members are always welcome in downtown Duncan.

For more information, please contact the DDBIA:

Press-Release-Hul’q’umi’num-Signage-Project-Nanum-tu-Sul-hween-i-tu-Smuneem.pdf (613 downloads)

Update: The DDBIA has completed a brochure with QR codes on it to help pronounce the Hul’q’umi’num names.