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Tsleil-Waututh Nation & SFU sign agreement to advance reconciliation

September 11, 2023

Representatives from səlilwətaɬ (the Tsleil-Waututh Nation) celebrated the signing of a Relationship Protocol Agreement with Simon Fraser University at a September 6th ceremony held at SFU’s Burnaby campus.

The agreement marks a formal commitment from both parties to work together, strengthen their relationship and advance reconciliation. SFU commits to promoting success and achievement of Tsleil-Waututh Nation learners and supporting the Nation’s cultural, economic, social, environmental, health, and community priorities.

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation will provide guidance to support SFU’s ongoing decolonizing and Indigenizing work. As part of the agreement, both parties will meet at least once a year to review and evaluate activities and identify new initiatives to build an inclusive future.

The agreement also outlines key areas of shared interests, such as:

  • Representing Tsleil-Waututh content, history and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language in SFU materials, departments, acknowledgements, and curriculum
  • The exchange of information and expertise to strengthen services and programs at SFU for TWN and Indigenous students 
  • Building on the success of the Indigenous languages program at SFU so it is seen as a worldwide model for Indigenous languages revitalization
  • Developing and implementing Tsleil-Waututh student and staff recruitment and retention initiatives
  • Exploring opportunities to partner with SFU Departments on a variety of cultural, economic and social development, health, and environmental projects
  • Supporting Tsleil-Waututh Nation moving forward with good governance principles to value sustainable economic development that provides economic, ecological, health and social benefits to the community
  • Working together to develop research projects that benefit both TWN and SFU
  • Increasing the presence of Tsleil-Waututh artwork and public signage throughout campuses within Tsleil-Waututh territory
  • Working together to develop and implement initiatives involving Tsleil-Waututh youth and supporting Tsleil-Waututh students at SFU

The signing event took place at the Indigenous Garden during the first week of fall semester classes with opening remarks from Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Jennifer (Jen) Thomas and SFU President and Vice-Chancellor Joy Johnson.

“As an Indigenous government, education is a core value of səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation),” says Thomas. “For too long we have been invisible on our own lands, including within the academic institutions that were established around us. This Agreement with SFU symbolizes a significant shift in our relationship, one that is based on mutual respect, true inclusivity, and collaboration to advance our respective goals together.”

“We are thankful to be developing a stronger relationship with SFU, which will include meaningfully increasing səlilwətaɬ’s presence within all areas of SFU for the benefit of past, present, and future generations,” she adds.

“Our work with Host Nations is incredibly important to SFU’s ongoing commitment to Uphold Truth and Reconciliation,” says SFU President and Vice Chancellor Joy Johnson. “With the signing of this protocol agreement, we hope to continue and strengthen our partnership with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and create new ways for us to walk the path of Reconciliation at SFU.”

Tsleil-Waututh Nation member Seth George served as master of ceremonies and additional speakers responded to the signing including: Provost and Vice-President Academic Dilson Rassier, Councillor Dennis Thomas, Faculty of Environment Dean Naomi Krogman and former director of Tseil-Waututh Community Development Angela George. Tsleil-Waututh Nation drummers performed traditional songs to accompany the ceremony.

SFU respectfully acknowledges its three campuses reside on the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), səlilwətaɬ  (Tsleil-Waututh), q̓íc̓əy̓ (Katzie), kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Qayqayt, Kwantlen, Semiahmoo and Tsawwassen peoples.

SFU also recently marked the renewal of a three-year memorandum of understanding (MOU with the Squamish Nation and continues to demonstrate a commitment to developing meaningful partnerships with Indigenous peoples and communities as a whole.