VICTORIA -- Major streets in downtown Duncan will soon be bilingual, according to the Downtown Duncan Business Improvement Area (BIA).

Seven streets near the downtown core will soon feature English and Hul’q’umi’num names. Hul’q’umi’num is the traditional language of the area’s local Indigenous community, Cowichan Tribes.

The municipality says that seven street names will be changed to be bilingual. Traffic signs will not be affected by the initiative.

The Downtown Duncan BIA will also be handing out signs that read "Tth’ihwum ‘i mi nuwilum. Huy ch q’u," which translate to, "Please come in. Thank you," for local businesses to hang in their stores.

The seven roads involved in the program, with both their English and Hul’q’umi’num names, are listed below:

• 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

The Downtown Duncan BIA says that each Hul’q’umi’num name was chosen due to its significance to Cowichan Tribes culture, or if provided an appropriate translation of the English street name.

Station Street was named Liloot Shelh, for instance, because Liloot means train, after the road’s train station namesake.

Meanwhile, Third Street was named Smuyuqw’a Shelh, not because of a direct translation but because Smuyuqw’a means "ladybug," which is an important figure in Cowichan Tribes storytelling, according to the Downtown Duncan BIA.

"The Downtown Duncan BIA hopes that this initiative will reflect the downtown business community’s leadership in building relationships and fostering meaningful connections with Cowichan Tribes," said the organization in a release Monday.

"While Cowichan Tribes members have recently experienced racism from some members of the community, member businesses in the downtown Duncan BIA want Cowichan Tribes members to feel welcome in our shops."

The bilingual naming project began in 2019, when the Downtown Duncan BIA and Cowichan Tribes began researching the history of local street names, and their potential Hul’q’umi’num translations.

The initiative was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic but was officially approved of by Duncan city council on Monday.

"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," said the Downtown Duncan BIA.