Coast Salish Place Names

Looking to the North Shore of Burrard Inlet with SFU' Burnaby campus in the foreground. Image courtesy SFU Creative Studio

This tour, available via the ímesh mobile app, is an acknowledgement of Coast Salish territories that takes recognition beyond words, and allows guests to physically experience the landscape and the languages of the local Coast Salish peoples.

The term Coast Salish refers to people from many different communities along the coast of the Salish Sea, near present-day southern British Columbia, Washington, and northern Oregon. Prior to colonial governments imposing boundaries on these communities and their membership, people identified themselves according to their family relationships and the villages where they lived.

Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus is located on the traditional territories of three Coast Salish First Nations: The xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and the Tsleil-Waututh. These nations have a spiritual, cultural, and economic connection to this land that spans thousands of years, and they have marked the land with many named places. These place names embody stories that connect people, villages, and animal beings to mountains, bodies of water, and entire territories.

It is customary for guests to acknowledge these host nations and their territories. For instance, it is a recognized protocol for someone to begin an event by saying “we would like to acknowledge the traditional unceeded territory of the Coast Salish people.” It is important to note that the word unceeded is often misunderstood here. It suggests that signing treaties, as many First Nations across Canada have, amounts to a land transfer. This is a common misconception. First Nations across the country signed treaties as resource sharing agreements, not to cede title or rights.