By Lyonel Doherty
A minor Spirit of Oliver debate is taking place over the use of the term “pioneer.”
Town council responded to a letter from Sue Morhun on Monday about her suggestion to “re-think” the name and criteria for the pioneer family category that existed in this year’s awards. (No award was given in this category because there were no nominations.)
This award honours pioneers who settled in greater Oliver following the establishment of Fairview Townsite (1887).
Morhun said the term “pioneer” is problematic these days because it perpetuates a stereotype that is exclusive, discriminatory and incorrect.
“As a result, it has become a term increasingly unacceptable in this period of reconciliation with Canada’s First Peoples,” she said. “As a community, I believe we have an ethical obligation to be part of that reconciliation process.”
Morhun pointed out that First Nations people were on this land thousands of years “before the rest of us arrived and settled.”
She proposes a Spirit of Oliver “heritage” category that is more inclusive of all people who have shaped the community. According to Morhun, this will broaden the appeal when seeking nominations.
But Councillor Maureen Doerr said she has never seen a conflict with the term “pioneer” in Oliver. She made a motion to alternate between heritage and pioneer award every year.
But Councillor Petra Veintimilla said she agreed with Morhun that “pioneer” can be problematic, noting the term “heritage” is more inclusive.
Doerr’s motion was subsequently defeated.
In the end, council decided to let the Spirit of Oliver Committee bring forward a recommendation on what to call the award.