Today the University of Victoria has announced it will honour the names of local villages and peoples that lived on the land which the university now sits on.
The first of the new student housing and dining buildings, started in 2019 and completed in 2022, is called Čeqʷəŋín ʔéʔləŋ, pronounced as “Chooqw-ngeen ay-lung,” the name given to the territory that is now Oak Bay, and the peoples who lived there.
The second building which is set to be completed by September 2023 is called Sŋéqə ʔéʔləŋ, pronounced as “Snga-qu ay-lung”, after a village in what is now known as Cadboro Bay.
“Today, we want to raise our hands and acknowledge everyone who has helped to carry out this good work. The building names will be a constant reminder of the history of these lands and will hopefully inspire critical reflections and educational opportunities for the campus community,” said Robina Thomas, Vice-President Indigenous.
“The work we’ve undertaken together represents a milestone in acknowledging the true history of where we are located—on lək̓ʷəŋən territory—and a way forward in continuing to build respectful relationships with local Nations.”
Ensuring this project was completed in a respectful way, collaboration and meaningful consultations were at the centre of this work. Throughout the process, UVic asked Chiefs and Councils, Elders and community members for guidance and direction on the naming of the building.
UVic began the naming process by consulting with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation students, community members and Chief and Council. Elder Seniemten, Dr. Elmer George, one of the last fluent lək̓ʷəŋən speaker, who has made it his life’s work to revitalize the language, brought forward the names. Seniemten’s grandfather was from Čeqʷəŋin and Sŋéqə.
“It is important that this project sets a precedent, and that the university continues to follow the direction and guidance of Indigenous leadership, Elders and community members,” said UVic Chancellor, Marion Buller.
“While a lot of the work that took place is well documented, the cultural and consultation work is not meant to be a checklist for future projects. Every project and every community will be unique and have different ways of leading the work.”