Two new student housing buildings at the University of Victoria will be named after the villages of the Indigenous people whose land the school currently occupies.
UVic sits on the traditional territory of the lək̓ʷəŋən people, and on Wednesday, the school continued its evolving relationship with the lək̓ʷəŋən people by unveiling the new names for one of two recently completed student housing and dining halls.
Construction started in 2019 and wrapped up in 2022, and the building will house 398 students, several classrooms and an Indigenous student lounge, according to UVic.
The first building is named Čeqʷəŋín ʔéʔləŋ (Cheko’nien House), which is now known as Oak Bay, while the second, to be completed by September, is called Sŋéqə ʔéʔləŋ (Sngequ House), which is now known as Cadboro Bay.
Songhees First Nation Councillor Norman Gary Sam was honoured to take part in the naming event and says it brings true meaning to the location, acknowledging its history and culture.
“We are sharing some names from the Songhees Nation in the lək̓ʷəŋən language, [which] translates to Village of Big Fire. These villages were beautiful places full of Indigenous plants, medicines and families,” said Sam.
Esquimalt Nation member and UVic student Chesa Abma-Slade, who helped with the process, was also in attendance and knows the magnitude this will have toward developing a good continued relationship with Nations on the South Island.
“It’s actually quite emotional,” said Abma-Slade.
“It’s really beautiful to see this sign. Through this work, I’ve gotten time to spend with our elders, and just realized how powerful it is to see this change during my lifetime.”
This move from UVic is part of its ongoing effort to further integrate Indigenous people and communities into the education system. Four years ago, it launched the world’s first Indigenous law degree, including a new facility set to open its doors in the fall of 2024.