Two new student buildings have been named Lekwungen in honor of the local Aboriginal people on the Victoria University campus.
A ceremony was held on Wednesday (April 5) to thank the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations for allowing the names to be used.
“Today, we raise our hands and thank everyone who has helped carry out this wonderful work,” UVic Qwul’sih’yah’maht Aboriginal vice president Robina Thomas said in a statement. “The building name will serve as a constant reminder of the history of these lands and will hopefully inspire critical thinking and educational opportunities in the campus community. The work we have done together represents a milestone in acknowledging the true history of our location – on the territory of Lekwungen – and continue to be the way forward to build mutually respectful relationships with countries on the ground.”
The first student accommodation and dining building was called Cheko’nien House, the name of the territory now known as Oak Bay. Construction will start in 2019 and be completed in 2022.
The second was called Sngequ House, named after a village now known as Cadboro Bay. It is used in camas harvesting, trade, and cultural and spiritual practices. It means “snow”. Construction of the second building is scheduled to be completed by September 2023.
Consultations were held with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation students, community members, and Heads of State and Council. Seniemten elder Elmer George, the last fluent Lekwungen speaker, suggested the names, according to a statement from UVic. Seniemten’s grandfather came from the region the buildings are named after.
“The mentorship of local elders has been crucial to this work and I am forever grateful for the endless knowledge and love they bring to support UVic students and staff. I admit there is still a long way to go, but these steps are important. I It was great to see these changes during UVic and the local elders have witnessed these changes in their lifetime.
In a statement, UVic principal Marion Buller said the naming was important as a precedent for future settlement efforts.
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