shíshálh Nation elder Mus-Sẃiya (Jamie) Dixon. Photo: Becky Wayte

“Beautiful,” is how shíshálh Nation elder Anne Quinn described her Nation’s act of naming Capilano University’s Sechelt campus “kálax-ay,” on May 24, 2016.

“I’m glad to see our land being recognized,” she said.

Kálax-ay translates to oceanspray bush or “iron wood.”

Jamie Dixon, or Mus-Sẃiya (for the four lands, four nations, four mountains, rivers, inlets and elements of the shíshálh), a shíshálh Nation elder, told the 20 attendees of the private ceremony that oceanspray bushes border the road between Langdale, on a southern corner of the Sunshine Coast, and Egmont in the north. An abundance of their beige blossoms in the spring signals a plentiful sockeye salmon run. Iron wood, or wood that’s been shaped, sharpened and strengthened in a fire, is strong and versatile, fashioned into fish hooks, clam digging sticks, knitting needles and skewers.

Dixon and Julia Denholm, dean of the Sunshine Coast Campus, unveiled a plaque that commemorates the new name. The plaque is encircled by salmon made of cedar and abalone, created by shíshálh artist Shain Jackson.

The new name serves as another step toward ensuring Aboriginal students feel like they belong on campus, said Capilano University’s First Nations advisor, David Kirk. He believes a sense of belonging on campus bolsters Aboriginal students’ success.

Kirk’s grandparents were survivors of residential schools and never spoke of their experiences. “We need to ensure Aboriginal students have a voice on campus,” he said.

He sees progress in numbers. Ten years ago, 22 Aboriginal students graduated from Capilano University. Nearly four times that number are expected to graduate this year.

Ashley Joe, post-secondary coordinator with the shíshálh Nation, noted Capilano University enrolled 37 students, the largest number of shíshálh Nation students in its history, this year.

The University also started offering a Sechelt (shíshálh) Nation Language and Culture Certificate for current and future Sechelt language teachers at the Sunshine Coast Campus this year.

Wearing a vest decorated with miniature wooden paddles, shíshálh elder Andy Johnson helped everyone practice pronouncing the Sunshine Coast Campus’s new name. It sounds like collihi, or caw, like a crow’s call, li, with a soft i, and hi, as in hello. When Johnson gestured, the eagle feathers mounted on the top of his Coast Salish cedar hat spun, exercising their purpose beyond decoration: to clear the air.

Submitted by Communications & Marketing

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