SFU President Joy Johnson (right) wears the colour red, symbolizing medicine, is significant to Coast Salish people. SFU Chancellor Tamara Vrooman (left) wears colour blue signifying a transition for Coast Salish people, as a way of embracing the contemporary. Both motifs chosen are used to honour leaders in Coast Salish culture.

Coast Salish motifs at heart of new convocation regalia

December 22, 2021

SFU’s new chancellor Tamara Vrooman and new president, Joy Johnson, stepped onto the convocation platform in fall 2020 proudly wearing newly designed regalia featuring motifs created by Chief Janice George—Chepximiya Siyam’—and Willard ‘Buddy’ Joseph—Skwetsimeltxw, both expert weavers and teachers from the Squamish Nation.

The inspiration for the motifs arose from designs used to honour leaders in Coast Salish culture and local artist Beverli Barnes helped to redesigned the regalia.

“The motifs we chose for the regalia are from the one we wove for our chief,” says Chief George. “We are telling the stories of leaders. We thought it would be appropriate to have the president and chancellor wear the same motifs as well.”

Says Joseph, “In our culture, they are called Siyam, who is someone held in high regard. We wanted to represent them both as leaders, but in their own way.”

Red, which is SFU’s signature colour, and the colour of the president’s regalia, is also significant to Coast Salish people because it symbolizes medicine. The chancellor’s regalia, in blue, is contemporary.

Embroidering the motifs was no small task, requiring 351,705 stitches on the president’s robe and 359,595 on the chancellor’s robe.

“I am honoured to wear this newly designed regalia, which appropriately reflects the territories where our campuses reside,” says SFU president Joy Johnson.

“Participating in the brushing ceremony and donning the beautiful new robe with my family at my side reminded me of the importance of community, and is a moment I’ll always remember.”