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Squamish Nation and Simon Fraser University celebrate partnership with MOU renewal event

May 29, 2023
Photo credit: Simon Fraser University

Representatives from the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) and Simon Fraser University (SFU) celebrated the renewal of a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at an evening ceremony in West Vancouver at Xwemelch’stn Etsimxwawtxw (Capilano Littlest Ones School).

The MOU further strengthens the long-standing relationship between the university and the Squamish Nation to collaborate on cultural, academic and research activities.

The MOU between the partners will continue to explore opportunities to:

  • Strengthen cultural and administrative protocols and events;
  • Exchange information and expertise to strengthen and enhance services and programs at SFU and in the community in collaboration with Squamish Nation (SN);
  • Discuss recruitment and retention initiatives as they concern the SN community;
  • Discuss and collaborate on potential programs. For example, language course development and offerings;
  • Discuss and collaborate on initiatives involving SN youth. For example, summer camps, tutoring, sports, and orientation and life skills training.
  • Discuss joint research initiatives; and
  • Discuss the utilization of SN cultural resources and experts by SFU, and vice versa.

The MOU, which was first signed in November, 2017, demonstrates the university’s ongoing commitment to uphold truth and reconciliation with SFU’s Host Nations where the university’s three campuses reside along with a willingness to engage with Indigenous peoples and communities as a whole.

SFU’s three campuses are located on the traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), q̓íc̓əy̓ (Katzie), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Qayqayt, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo and Tsawwassen peoples. The MOU renewal continues to build on SFU’s rich history of community engagement with the Squamish Nation and other Nations.

For Spokesperson and Squamish Nation Councillor Wilson Williams (Sxwíxwtn) there is great value in this ongoing partnership.

“Our continued relationship with SFU underscores that working together can have positive outcomes, creating opportunities for Squamish People and help increase awareness and respect for Indigenous ways of knowing for the broader public. I applaud SFU for continuing to engage in this mutually beneficial relationship and support the university as it seeks to further develop educational and professional development programs. Most importantly, the goal is to increase supports for Indigenous students and youth throughout their educational journey.”

SFU president and vice-chancellor Joy Johnson reflected on the successful projects that have been implemented in consultation with Indigenous leaders but acknowledged that there is much more work to be done going forward together.

“Because two of SFU’s campuses are located on traditional and unceded Squamish territory, our collaborative work with the Squamish Nation is a critical part of our commitment to uphold truth and Reconciliation,” says SFU President Joy Johnson. “With this MOU renewal, I am excited to continue our long-standing relationship through new and ongoing projects at SFU, including Indigenous naming.”

Reflecting & celebrating Indigenous success at SFU

SFU continues to work towards implementing the 34 Calls to Action outlined in the 2017 Walk This Path With Us Report and explore additional opportunities to support truth and reconciliation.

Highlights of past and present actions towards reconciliation at SFU:

  • A Coast Salish welcome figure, hand-carved by Squamish artist Sinámkin, was installed on Burnaby Campus in 2017.
  • SFU offers programs for Indigenous language and cultural revitalization including a Squamish Master of Education program, which graduated its first cohort in 2021 and the Skwxwú7mesh Sníchim (Squamish Language) programs.
  • SFU is also committed to celebrating Indigenous students, faculty and staff including members of the Squamish Nation. In 2021, Chris (Syeta’xtn) Lewis of Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw received the SFU Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award. In the same year, Charlene Williams, an MEd graduate from SFU and a Sḵwx̱wú7mesh culture and language worker, was a speaker at the Faculty of Education Fall Convocation ceremony.
  • The university completed an expansion of the Indigenous Student Centre (ISC) in 2023, which hosts an Elders Program and includes participation from a Squamish Nation Elder.
  • Construction of the First Peoples’ Gathering House, a ceremonial and cultural event space on Burnaby Campus is currently underway and expected to be completed in 2024.
  • An Indigenous Naming Committee (INC) was created to honour and recognize the deep connection First Nations have to the land on which SFU’s campuses reside. The INC, informed by existing Indigenous naming protocols and practices, will work to establish Indigenous place names across all three SFU campuses.