Indigenous Naming

Informed by existing Host Nation naming protocols and processes, various revitalization projects related to Indigenous naming at SFU are currently active and being steered by the Indigenous Naming Committee/Family (INC).

The SFU Family is hoping to work alongside Host Indigenous communities to better learn and reflect the deep history and connection to the lands on which we are situated through increased visual presence and representation of Indigenous peoples and cultures across SFU’s campuses.

Over the past year, the family’s work has focused on developing key principles and an indigenized approach to naming or reclaiming Indigenous names for the university’s campuses, buildings, locations, programs, events and more.

Honouring Host Nations

Indigenous names are a title to a deep story of truth, history and connection that honour and recognize the First Nations on whose unceded and traditional territories SFU’s campuses reside.

Simon Fraser University’s three vibrant metropolitan campuses encompass the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), q̓íc̓əy̓ (Katzie), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Qayqayt, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo and Tsawwassen peoples.

At the opening of SFU’s Burnaby campus in 1965, the Host Nations were not engaged or consulted; thus, their history and connection was not recognized. Today, the university seeks to redress that history and unlock the Indigenous connections and histories across its three campuses, and establish an enduring connection between Host Nations and settlers and newcomers by reminding the community of the history where they are situated.

Truth and Reconciliation at SFU

As a public institution, SFU is committed to upholding truth and reconciliation as an institutional priority. Guided by the 34 Calls to Action set out in the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council’s Walk this Path with Us report, the university is on a journey to co-create sustained change and a safe, inclusive environment for Indigenous students, staff and faculty to thrive.

The Indigenous Naming Committee and family is picking up the work grounded in Call to Action 5: Install Aboriginal signage, place names, translations of building names and path indicators at all three campuses. Through this work the Committee and family commits to cultivating a campus where Indigenous students, staff, faculty feel an increased sense of safety and belonging. 

Project Leadership

  • Joanne Curry, Vice-President, External Relations
  • Ron Johnston, Director, Office for Aboriginal Peoples
  • Chris (Syeta'xtn) Lewis, Director, Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation

The Gift of Naming

“We are approaching this naming work as an SFU family, to lift up and honour the legacy of Indigenous peoples across the university’s three campuses. We are hoping to listen, learn and earn the right to be gifted, through a reciprocal relationship, a name(s) from the Host Nations. An Indigenous name that makes Indigenous students, faculty, staff and community members feel both welcome and safe is sought. Through an authentic sense of belonging, Indigenous community members can determine their personal purpose and power in this place of higher education. For newcomers who come to the mountain, an Indigenous name for the campus can educate and elevate the shared journey of Truth, Reconciliation and Indigenization.”

~ Chris (SYETA'XTN) Lewis Director, Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation

Projects underway

Steered by the Indigenous Naming Committee, the first phase of Indigenous Naming at SFU will follow a campus-by-campus naming approach, beginning with the Burnaby campus. Identified Host Nation representatives will join campus-specific meetings in early summer, where they will hear from various SFU family members representing the different naming projects, about the intended uses and impacts.

Phase one projects also include: four Indigenous Student Centre space names, the Faculty of Education’s Indigenous Garden as well as the Indigenous Curriculum Resource Centre. Once completed, the First Peoples’ Gathering House will also receive a name.

The Committee will revisit other opportunities for naming following these phases, taking learnings to apply moving forward.