Slowly but surely, Indigenous place names are returning to Vancouver, which has been home to First Nations people for thousands of years.
Today, representatives of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations joined City of Vancouver and provincial officials to officially rename the plazas by the Vancouver Art Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
“Our government, like the city, is deeply committed to meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in British Columbia,” Citizens' Services Minister Jinny Sims said in a news release. “Renaming these plazas will help ensure these three local Nations have a prominent presence in the downtown area, which is in the heart of their traditional territory.”
This is the new name of the giant open space on the north side of the VAG: šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square.
According to the City of Vancouver, it "refers to a place where a cultural gathering occurs such as a wedding, funeral, naming, honouring, or coming of age ceremony". The name incorporates languages of all three First Nations.
This is the new name of the gathering place outside the Queen E: šxʷƛ̓exən Xwtl’a7shn Square.
It "refers to the Walks for Reconciliation which bring tens of thousands of people to the plaza to walk together in recognition of residential school survivors, acknowledge those that did not survive, and celebrate the work that’s being done to redress this legacy".
Like the other name, this also incorporates languages of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
The City of Vancouver has also given an Indigenous name to the new nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona public library branch.
"This is the beginning of a big change to welcome back the place names and welcome back the language—the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm [Musqueam] language—to make sure that we recognize the history of this place and the names that evolved with our city," Mayor Gregor Robertson said at the grand opening last year.
The Vancouver school board recently renamed Sir William Macdonald elementary school as Xpey', which means "cedar" in the Musqueam language.
And the Vancouver park board is in the process of renaming Siwash Rock in Stanley Park, thanks to a motion from Vision Vancouver commissioner Catherine Evans.
There's also been talk of giving Indigenous names to three stations along the Millennium Line SkyTrain extension when it's finally built.