Canadian School Renamed ‘wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm’ To Fight Colonialism

(Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Carson Choate Contributor
Font Size:

Sir Matthew Begbie Elementary School, located in Vancouver, Canada, has been renamed to “wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm,” which means “the sun rising over the horizon.”

Vancouver School Board (VSB) superintendent Helen McGregor said that the name change came as the school district sought to reconcile Canada’s past offenses against the Musqueam people – who are natives of Vancouver.

“Asking Musqueam to gift the school a hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ name is one way the District is showing its commitment to continuing our reconciliation journey,” McGregor said, according to a press release. “It increases the knowledge, awareness, appreciation of and respect for Musqueam history, language, tradition, culture and contributions.”

A ceremony was held in celebration of the school’s new name and building, which was built to withstand an earthquake and cost $22.4 million.

The school was previously named after Sir Matthew Begbie, the first Chief Justice of the Crown Colony of British Columbia, according to Vancouver City News.

The outlet reported that Begbie became known as “the hanging judge” for his role in the 1864 execution of five Tsilhqot’in Chiefs who were accused of murdering settlers.

The Canadian government apologized for the hanging in 2014 and later exonerated the hanged Chiefs in 2018.

The school’s new name was chosen by Musqueam Indian Band officials and ties the school to the Hastings Sunrise neighborhood, where it’s located. (RELATED: Lloyd Austin Authorizes New Names For Confederate Military Bases)

“hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ is the language our ancestors spoke for thousands of years, which was systematically taken from us to the point that there are no longer any fluent hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speakers in Musqueam,” Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow (also known as yəχʷyaχʷələq) said.

“Being asked to share our language with partners, and provide hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ names to replace names associated with colonization, is an important step toward rights recognition, reconciliation and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ revitalization,” Sparrow said. “Musqueam looks forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship with VSB and schools throughout our territory.”