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Our meaning of place: Indigenous Naming Survey Results 

August 02, 2023

A survey this past spring surfaced the unique vibrancy of SFU’s three campuses from the university community to inspire the addition of Indigenous campus names to existing campus names. 

To help inform this work, students, faculty, staff and alumni were invited to participate in a two-question survey during the month of May which asked: “What word(s) come to mind when you think about what is special about or at the essence of each of SFU’s three campuses?” and “Is there anything else you would like to share with the Indigenous Naming Committee (INC)?” 

Aligned with the key pillar of upholding Truth and Reconciliation in the What’s Next: SFU Strategy, along with the Pathways report, the INC is steering various revitalization projects at the university related to Indigenous Naming, responding to Call to Action 5 of the Walk this Path with Us Report.  

Survey highlights  

The survey garnered a total of 424 responses and 153 comments from the university community who shared their perspectives on the collective work

From those surveyed, common descriptor themes for each campus emerged with the top word most closely associated with each campus being: mountain for Burnaby campus, community for Surrey campus and city for Vancouver campus.   

For a high-level snapshot of the most common words for each campus from the survey, scan the three-page word cloud infographic here.

The journey forward 

The valuable feedback received from across the university community will be shared with Host Nation language experts to guide Indigenous naming at SFU.  

This past June, representatives for all four Burnaby campus Host Indigenous Nations: xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), and kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) nations, along with Elders Margaret George (Skawahlook First Nation) and Marie Hooper (Kwikwetlem) joined a gathering at the campus to hear from various SFU Family members representing different naming projects. Discussions focused on the internal work done to date, touring the specific project areas across the Burnaby campus and learning more about the naming processes at each Host Nation. 

Another gathering is planned for early fall where discussions among the SFU Family members and Host Nation representatives will continue to help set principles and guide the first phase of Indigenous Naming that is focused on a campus-by-campus naming approach, beginning with the Burnaby campus.   

“Reclaiming language and standing together as a collective is powerful,” says Ron Johnston, Director, Office for Aboriginal Peoples and INC co-lead. “We are committed to doing this good work as a family, guided by the principle of two-eyed seeing.”

The vision is for each campus to eventually earn the gift of an Indigenous name that will be used in partnership with the current location-based campus names. 

“We are doing this work internally to earn the right to ask for a name and recognize the responsibility that comes with upholding an Indigenous name(s),” says Chris Syeta’xtn Lewis, Director, Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation and INC co-lead. “As part of the journey to making the university a more welcoming place for Indigenous students, faculty and staff, we need to respect the protocols around naming for each Host Nation, learning along the way and letting the process unfold as it should.”  

For the latest updates on Indigenous Naming, visit: sfu.ca/aboriginalpeoples/sfu-reconciliation/indigenous-naming