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Pearson College renames residences in SENCOTEN language

Pearson College UWC has taken the next step in its reconciliation action plan, renaming its five student residence buildings with SENCOTEN language names.

Unveiled in a ceremony Nov. 18, the buildings new names are: TEKI (formerly Japan House), STOKI, (Victoria House), HENEN (McLaughlin House), QOL,EW (East House) and TA,WEN (Calgary House).

Chief Russ Chipps of the SCI’ANEW First Nation said the names come from his community’s history as the people of the salmon, with each bearing the traditional names for species of Pacific salmon.

“There is a lot of reconciliation talk and talk of coming together, but I find in the Western Communities in general, it is more than talk, it’s action,” Chipps said. “They are answering the call to action on reconciliation.”

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Chipps and several community Elders have been working with the school for several years now to guide and support its reconciliation efforts, with the unveiling of new building names the latest result of the partnership.

The school’s concrete actions, done with the involvement of the region’s Indigenous peoples, is significant when some other organizations and groups seem only to pay lip service when it comes to reconciliation, he said.

“It’s time we take traditional knowledge and see it the same as western knowledge,” Chipps said. “It seems sometimes western knowledge supersedes traditional knowledge, but (Pearson College) seems to accept traditional knowledge for what it is – fact.”

The school’s reconciliation process started in 2015 with a declaration of commitment, and an action plan received final approval in 2020.

In addition to adopting Indigenous names for the campus’ buildings and key spaces, said Pearson vice-president Ty Pile, the action plan includes items like hiring an official school Indigenous leader, decolonizing and “Indigenizing” the school’s organization and governance systems, introducing Indigenous knowledge and culture into the school curriculum and school life, and building closer relationships with First Nations across the country.

“We want to continue to support and introduce Indigenous languages and (their) use on our campus,” he said. “It’s already made a difference. The students are very proud they were part of the renaming process; they are very proud this is a meaningful step in the reconciliation process.”

In addition to the new building names, Chipps gifted the school a design for a salmon logo which was then refined by students. The completed design will be featured on school stationary and the buildings’ new signs.

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Justin Samanski-Langille

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