A committee could soon be set up to rename Coal Tyee Elementary School, named for a First Nations man who helped the Hudson’s Bay Company find coal deposits in the area. The Nanaimo-Ladysmith school board will consider the move after its education committee unanimously backed a motion to set up the committee.
Coal Tyee Elementary school, located in Nanaimo’s north end, was named for Ki-et-sa-kun, who was nicknamed Coal Tyee because he brought the coal deposits near Nanaimo to the attention of the Hudson’s Bay Company, paving the way for mining on the central Island. The school, which opened in 1996, has about 350 students.
Today, Coal Tyee is seen by many Snuneymuxw people as a tragic figure, since his interaction with the colonial peoples led directly to colonization of the area and destructive resource extraction that has affected the land, district superintendent Scott Saywell said in a report to the education committee.
According to a City of Nanaimo account, Ki-et-sa-kun was having his gun repaired in Victoria in 1851 when he spoke of coal in Nanaimo. A clerk for the Hudson’s Bay Company subsequently travelled to Nanaimo to confirm the presence of coal.