What's in a name? Plenty, when it comes to education regarding Indigenous cultures.
The West Vancouver Memorial Library has joined a growing number of establishments giving recognition to First Nations languages, by honouring its gardens with a Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) name.
Swáýwi temíxw – Swáýwi referring to the location of the garden and temíxw meaning land, dirt, or earth – was chosen by acclaimed weaver Chepximiya Siyam’ Chief Janice George and given in a traditional naming ceremony on Oct. 4. The event was led by Skwetsimeltxw Willard "Buddy" Joseph, and saw George deliver a speech to an expectant crowd of community members and library staff, in which she said she was "so honoured" to have handpicked the moniker.
"I chose the name to teach about Squamish Territory – we have so much oral history about our ancestors and land. It makes our children proud to hear it," she added.
Students from the Etsímxwawtxw Capilano Littlest Ones, an elementary school program rooted in Indigenous culture, begun celebrations with song and blessings, before spiritually cleansing the garden with cedar boughs. Participating in the naming ceremony as a witness was the library's board chair Alastair Nimmons, who in return said those at the library were "incredibly honoured" to receive the name from George.
The purpose of the garden, which is located in the library's rooftop parking lot, is to arm green-fingered locals with knowledge on growing food and native plants and sustainable living.
Charlene Seward of the Squamish Nation worked alongside the library to help develop the garden's brimming native plant section, which she said represents an opportunity to create space for "Indigenous foodways, plant medicines, and ways of knowing and being." She touched on how education is an important step on the path to reconciliation, a sentiment that has long been argued by First Nations members.
“As we seek to walk meaningfully down the path of reconciliation, we acknowledge the need for the decolonization of our practices, policies, and relationships with each other and the land," she said.
"This garden is an invitation to experience and honour Indigenous plants and rebuild your relationship with the land and original stewards of this territory.”
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News' Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.