An East Van elementary school has a new name to better reflect its Indigenous student population and curriculum.
Located at 1950 East Hastings at Victoria Drive, Sir William Macdonald elementary is now known as Xpey’ elementary. Vancouver School Board official trustee Dianne Turner made that call Monday, Oct. 23, in what was her last meeting at the helm of the district before successful byelection candidates are sworn in Oct. 30.
Xpey’ translates to “cedar” in the henqeminem dialect spoken by members of the Musqueam nation. The school became an Aboriginal focus school in 2012.
“I’m pleased that the renaming committee [recommended] this name, which reflects both the Indigenous heritage and education history of the area,” Turner said in a news release. “It is important for the District Aboriginal Focus School program that the school has an Indigenous name.”
With the name change now official, the next steps turn to the school’s visuals.
“The school community, working closely with district staff, will develop the new signage, logo, letterhead and other materials that will use the name,” VSB spokesperson David Connop Price told the Courier via email. “The students and all the school community will have a voice in this meaningful and respectful process.”
The original school, which began in temporary buildings at Victoria and Pender streets, was named Cedar Cove elementary because of its proximity to Burrard Inlet.
Macdonald elementary opened in 1906 and was named after Sir William Macdonald, a tobacco merchant and educational philanthropist.
School board policy states that re-naming a school must reflect the educational needs of the students and the history and cultural tradition of the school and community. The new name aligns with the change from a local catchment to a district catchment for an Aboriginal focus school.
The name-change exercise was two years in the making and initiated in late October 2015. A re-naming committee was struck consisting of the school’s principal, VSB staff and representatives from the student and parent population.
More than 30 names were submitted over a week-long process by 45 people. Cedar Cove received the most votes among committee members.
District staff then asked Chief Wayne Sparrow and council members of the Musqueam lndian Band for their help translating the term, and a translation and phonic equivalency were returned to the board in early October.
Listen to elder Larry Grant of the Musqueam First Nation as he pronounces Xpey'. (provided to the Vancouver School Board)
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the Vancouver Park Board approved a motion to consult with the Squamish, Musqueam and Tseil-Waututh First Nations about changing the name of Stanley Park’s Siwash Rock because the word Siwash, whose origins can be traced back to the French word “sauvage,” is considered offensive.
Park board staff were directed to consult with the Stanley Park Intergovernmental Group, which includes representatives from the three First Nations, to determine if there’s a desire to rename the landmark. Staff will be reporting back to the park board on a potential process and time frame for renaming.
The first major civic building to have an Aboriginal name is the new library in Strathcona, which opened in April 2017.
It was named nə́c̓aʔmat ct, which reflects the idea of “we are one” in the henqeminem dialect of the Musqueam people. It was inspired by the community suggestion “Namwayut” — the theme of the City of Vancouver’s Year of Reconciliation activities.