Skip to content

Cowichan officials want B.C. to change controversial creek name

Coonskin Creek in Youbou seen to be racist name
Karen Deck, area director for Youbou urged the CVRD to vote that the province eliminate Coonskin Creek as the name of a creek that flows through Youbou as some consider it racist. (Citizen file photo)

The board at the Cowichan Valley Regional District wants to see the moniker Coonskin Creek removed from a creek in the Youbou area.

The board voted in favour of the province eliminating the name of the creek, which flows through Youbou into Cowichan Lake, at its meeting on Jan. 24 after receiving a letter from the BC Geographical Names Office stating concerns about “the potential harms arising from derogatory language in geographical names.”

Coon is a shorter version of raccoon for many, but it can also be a racial slur, used pejoratively to refer to dark-skinned people.

Youbou/Meade Creek director Karen Deck said that when she first saw the name Coonskin Creek 10 years ago when she first moved into the area, she wondered how can it be the case that a term like “coon” is still being used in the name of the creek.

“This is probably the most derogatorily racist and offensive name you could call an African-Canadian or African-American,” Deck said.

Deck said she is aware that “coon” can also refer to raccoons, but after doing some research on Coonskin Creek, she discovered the origin of the name of the creek is actually related to the racist meaning of the word.


“So I’m fully in favour of the government changing it and I hope they think about using a name that’s a traditional name for a creek in this neighbourhood, and have consultations with the Ts’uubaa-asatx First Nation about what that name might be,” she said.

The letter from the Geographical Names Office to the CVRD, which was also sent to a number of local First Nations and other stakeholders looking for their input, said Coonskin Creek became the official name of the creek in 1952, but the significance or origin of the name was not included in the submission of the name to the province’s Water Licence Branch at the time.


The letter went on to say that if the name of the creek is rescinded, the online name records would be maintained with the history of the name having once been official, but the name Coonskin Creek would no longer be labelled on provincial maps and charts, or distributed as an official place name in B.C.

North Cowichan director Debra Toporowski said she’s also in favour of having the name eliminated, but she’s concerned that a copy of the letter from the Geographical Names Office was not sent to Cowichan Tribes, the largest First Nation in B.C.

Toporowki, a former member of Cowichan Tribes’ government, said there had been discussions at the First Nations’ council table about rescinding controversial names, like some street names, in its lands as well.

“We should all talk together and come up with new names for all these things that were acceptable and became the norm for names in history, but are now not so welcoming,” she said.

The board voted for the government to rescind the name Coonskin Creek and its renaming be referred to First Nations in the region for their imput, including Cowichan Tribes.

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
Read more