Totem Park House Names

Each house at Totem Park Residence was named to honour Indigenous peoples in British Columbia. The newest houses carry place names gifted by our host, the Musqueam Nation, but the original six do not. These two sets of houses represent very different approaches to working with Indigenous communities, and provide important lessons to all of us living on Musqueam territory. As members of the UBC community, we have the responsibility to use all of the names at Totem Park Residence in respectful and responsible ways. Please take a moment to begin learning about the history and meaning of these names.

There are 203 different First Nations in British Columbia. To recognize some of these nations, the first six houses at Totem Park Residence were named Haida, Salish, Nootka, Dene, Kwakiutl and Shuswap in the 1960s. While the University had good intentions, the Indigenous communities these names refer to were not asked for permission. As a result, the names Nootka, Kwakiutl, Shuswap and Salish are inaccurate. The names at Totem Park were used inappropriately for decades, as many students did not have an understanding of the origins of these names and the fact that they refer to living communities. This naming process also did not recognize the fact that UBC-Vancouver is located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people.

In 2011, Student Housing and Hospitality Services began working with the Musqueam Nation to name the new infill houses at Totem Park Residence, and educate students about the true history of the land they are living on. Through a collaborative naming and storytelling process, Musqueam gifted the names həm̓ləsəm̓ and q̓ələχən in 2011, and the name c̓əsnaʔəm in 2017, for use at Totem Park Residence. These are three of the place names within their territory. Further educational initiatives are underway to enhance the storytelling that is done at Totem Park Residence, and to break down misconceptions held by members of the UBC community and beyond.

həm̓ləsəm̓ House

Listen to the pronunciation:

Say the highlighted syllables out loud: “hummingbird”, “legitimate”, “some
Stress is on the first syllable. The letter “m”, marked by an apostrophe, signifies glottalization.

Today, portions of Musqueam’s traditional territory are called Vancouver, North Vancouver, South Vancouver, Burrard Inlet, New Westminster, Burnaby, and Richmond.

həm’ləsəm’ is a site of transformation (south of Wreck Beach) where χe:l’s, the transformer who oversaw social behaviour, punished a greedy person for being possessive and wasteful of fresh water from the natural spring. While bent over to drink and unwilling to share this vital resource, he was turned to rock. His chamber pot spilled and became the smaller rock beside him.

“Resource, which is information, intelligence, all the different knowledges of the world that come together at the university, should be shared freely, so that people move through life together and grow together.” – As told by Larry Grant, Elder from Musqueam Nation (2011)

q’ələχən House

Listen to the pronunciation:

Say the highlighted syllables out loud: “cultivate”, “legitimate”, “honey”
Stress is on the first syllable. The letter “q”, marked by an apostrophe, signifies glottalization. The “χ” represents a strong h-sound, like the “ch” in the German pronunciation of Bach.

Today, portions of Musqueam’s traditional territory are called Vancouver, North Vancouver, South Vancouver, Burrard Inlet, New Westminster, Burnaby, and Richmond.

q’ələχən was a strategic fortification site (on Point Grey) where Musqueam warriors and their families resided, including warrior of renown, qiyəplenəxw (Capilano). qiyəplenəxw is widely celebrated for leading war efforts to protect his people from invaders as well as welcoming the first Spanish and English explorers, led by José Narváez (1791) and George Vancouver (1792), to Musqueam territory and initiating trade with them.

“During World War II, q’ələχən became the most heavily armed site in the Port of Vancouver. Remnants of the gun emplacements can be seen next to UBC’s Museum of Anthropology to this day.” – As told by Larry Grant, Elder from Musqueam Nation (2011)

Haida House

Opened: 1964, named to honour the Haida
Pronunciation: High-da

Location: Parts of southern Alaska, the archipelago of Haida Gwaii and its surrounding waters.

Haida people have occupied Haida Gwaii, 770 km north of Vancouver, since time immemorial. They currently make up half of the 5,000 people living on the islands that were, until 2010, officially known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. There are many more Haida scattered throughout the world including a significant population in Vancouver. Haida art can be found throughout the UBC campus, including Bill Reid’s famous Raven and The First Men at the Museum of Anthropology and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’ contemporary sculpture Take Off outside the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

“Our culture is born of respect, and intimacy with the land and sea and the air around us. Like the forests, the roots of our people are intertwined such that the greatest troubles cannot overcome us. We owe our existence to Haida Gwaii.” — The Haida Nation

References: Haida Nation History; B.C. Ministry of Education First Nations Map

Salish* House

Opened: 1964, named to honour Coast Salish** peoples
Pronunciation: Say-lish
Location: Southeastern part of Vancouver Island and the lower mainland of British Columbia.

The Coast Salish consist of many First Nations groups with distinct languages, but similar customs. Historically these groups moved throughout southeastern Vancouver Island and the lower mainland using the resources the land and sea provided for fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering. Today, Coast Salish people still use these resources for economic and traditional purposes. Officially in 2010, Puget Sound, the Juan de Fuca Strait, and the Strait of Georgia were collectively named “The Salish Sea,” reflecting the growing understanding and appreciation of Coast Salish history and culture. The Musqueam people are one of the groups included in the Coast Salish. UBC is located on land claimed by the Musqueam people to form part of their traditional territories.

*Salish refers to people who speak languages related within the Salishan language family whose territories extended from the northwest United States to the southern tip of Vancouver Island.
**Coast Salish refers to Salishan speakers indigenous to the southeastern part of Vancouver Island and the lower mainland of British Columbia.

Susan A. Point, descendant of the Musqueam people; Musqueam Nation

Nootka* House

Opened: 1964, named to honour Nuu-chah-nulth peoples
Pronunciation: Noo-chah-noolth
Location: Pacific coast of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery, Washington.

The Nuu-chah-nulth are a contemporary alliance of 14 bands that speak dialects of the same language. With highly sophisticated marine technology, the Nuu-chah-nulth were one of the only peoples on the northwest coast to hunt whales in the open sea. Preparations for the whales’ arrival were woven into every aspect of daily life and two or three whales in any year brought thousands of litres of rich oil, prestige and many guests at potlatches.

*When British Captain James Cook’s ship was drifting too close to a reef in Nuu-chah-nulth territory, he was greeted by hails of “nootka, nootka.” The locals meant to direct Cook to “circle around, circle around” to avoid the rocks. But he mistook “nootka” as their name and gave it also to other Nuu-Chah-nulth peoples.

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal CouncilB.C. Ministry of Education First Nations MapB.C. First Nations Pronunciation Guide; A Traveller’s Guide to Aboriginal B.C. by Cheryl Coull (1996)

Dene House

Opened: 1964, named to honour Dene peoples
Pronunciation: Den-ay

According to oral historical accounts, the Dene have occupied and governed themselves over the lands of the northern boreal and arctic regions of Canada, since time immemorial. It is not uncommon for Dene to refer to this vast homeland as Denendeh, or “land of the people,” which covers an area that spans over one million square kilometres from the mouth of the Mackenzie River (or Dehcho, as the Dene call it), southward to the northern tips of the western and prairie provinces and east to Hudson Bay. Today, the word Denendeh has come to specifically represent much of the Northwest Territories excluding Inuvialuit territory in the far north. Although separated geographically, all of the Dene nations occupying this vast region speak related dialects of the Northern Athapaskan language, and historically shared many similarities in terms of spiritual beliefs, legal systems, forms of governance, and economic systems. Recent archaeological and linguistic evidence— although imprecise—suggests that the direct ancestors of the Dene migrated to their present locations between 2,000 to 28,000 years ago.

References: Subjects of Empire: Indigenous Peoples and Recognition Politics by Glen Coulthard (forthcoming Maps and Dreams by Hugh Brodie) (1988)

Shuswap House

Opened: 1967, named to honour Secwepemc peoples
Secwepemc pronunciation: She-whe-pumh (sounds like: shuttle-whether-pump-huge)
Location: B.C. Interior, stretching from the Columbia River valley along the Rocky Mountains, west to the Fraser River, and south to the Arrow Lakes.

The Secwepmc people, known by non-natives as the Shuswap, consist of 17 Secwepmctsin-speaking peoples. The ancestors of the Secwepemc have lived in the interior of British Columbia for at least 10,000 years and traditionally lived, fished, hunted and gathered together in small family groups and spent winters in semi-subterranean pit houses. UBC’s Xwi7xwa library (pronounced Whee-whah), located next to the First Nations House of Learning, references a traditional pithouse design.

Secwepemc Cultural Education SocietyB.C. First Nations Pronunciation Guide; Encyclopedia of British Columbia by Daniel Francis (2000); A Traveller’s Guide to Aboriginal B.C. by Cheryl Coull (1996)

Kwakiutl House

Opened: 1967, named to honour Kwakwaka’wakw* peoples
Pronunciation: Kwa-kwuh-kyuh-walk-w
Location: Northern and eastern side of Vancouver Island as far south as Campbell River and on the mainland opposite.

The Kwakwaka’wakw peoples are one of many groups where the potlatch is a way of life. The potlatch is a ceremony where families gather and names are given, births are announced, marriages are conducted, and where families mourn the loss of a loved one. The potlatch is also the ceremony where a Chief will pass his rights and privileges on to his eldest son. The Canadian government outlawed the potlatch in 1885, in part because of their belief that potlatches were a detriment to the expansion of Canada’s economy. The law was deleted (though not officially repealed) in 1951 and the Kwakwaka’wakw continue to hold potlatches today.

*Historically, Kwakwaka’wakw people were incorrectly referred to as the Kwakiutl. Kwakiutl is actually the Anglicized name of one particular Kwakwaka’wakw tribe located at Fort Rupert, B.C.

References: U’mista Cultural SocietyB.C. Ministry of Education First Nations Map