Harrison Hot Springs is now home to a new park, which will showcase some of the area’s Indigenous history.
On Friday (Sept. 6), Harrison officially unveiled Qwólts Park, located at the Miami River flood pump just past the Harrison Hot Springs Resort.
“We hope that this park provides an opportunity for people to connect with one another and with nature, and learn about the history and people of the area,” mayor Leo Facio said during the opening.
The park was the result of a multi-year project, starting before 2016 when Harrison was first working to get its 60-year-old flood pump replaced with a modern, fish-friendly version.
The flood pump was replaced in 2016, and that year received an $81,000 grant for “beautification” in the area. Three years later, the project was finally complete.
The new park includes art installations on the flood pump building itself, including Sts’ailes images of salmon, sturgeon and the Sasquatch. The building also five animal statues donated from the previous council, and interpretive signage on the history of Sts’ailes occupation in the area.
|Harrison councillor Ray Hooper unveiling the sign for Qwolts Park at the Miami River flood pump Friday. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)|
The park also includes seating looking over the lake, and a new sign with the name “Qwólts Park,” after the Halq’émeylem word for boiling water or hot water, referring to the hot spring.
“I’m really honoured, and I feel very privileged to see this in my time, where there’s this kind of working relationship,” Sts’ailes band member Chaquawet Willie Charlie said. “Taking our language and our name of places, and recognizing it.”
The name has its connection to not only the hot spring, but also ancient village that was located near it.
“They called the village that was here and the people that lived here, Qwó:ils. It was the place of the medicine water, the place of the healing water,” Charlie said.
“Our elders say that people would travel here for great distances” to bathe in the hot spring’s water, Charlie said. Visitors would also rub the mud around the hot spring onto themselves, and sometimes drink a tiny amount of the water to help cure digestive problems.
After the ceremony, Charlie told that Sts’ailes story of how the hot spring came to be.
“We’re told that real medicine food for us is fish head soup,” Charlie explained. “Here there was some fishermen, that when the fish was really scarce, they caught some fish and were going to make fish head soup. And they weren’t going to share it.”
The fishermen were boiling their soup by the lake when Xa:ls, a transformer who was sent to make things right in the land, came upon them and turned them to stone.
“That boiling water, that medicine water, was from that fish head soup and kept it going,” Charlie said. “There’s lots of deep stories, and today you get a little glimpse of it.”
The park opening was attended by Sts’ailes drummers, as well as MLA Laurie Throness, who helped secure money for the project back in 2016, and members of Harrison council.