KPU installs Indigenous signage

Tue, Nov 19, 2019

Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) has started installing signage bearing Indigenous language as part of its reconciliation efforts.

The new signage featuring the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ dialect was unveiled at KPU’s Langley campus on November 18 by university president Dr. Alan Davis and Fern Gabriel, a member of the Kwantlen First Nation. Fern Gabriel’s sisters Cheryl and Donna also attended, along with the Mayor of the City of Langley, Val van den Broek.

Fern Gabriel, who teaches the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ dialect in the Langley School District, translated the words that appear on the signage, which also feature art by KPU graduate Brandon Gabriel, a mixed media artist and member of the Kwantlen First Nation.

“This signage is a step on the path to ensuring that the traditional, ancestral lands of the First Nations people in KPU’s region are properly acknowledged at all our campuses,” says Dr. Davis. “It is also part of a much wider and deeper effort by KPU to address the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report of 2015.”

Fern Gabriel says there’s no direct translation into English of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ words that describe her happiness at seeing the dialect appearing on signage at university.

“It’s beyond joy, what I’m feeling today,” she says, describing the closest approximation. “I thank you all for this day. It is history.”

Dr. Davis is thankful for Fern Gabriel’s work.

“Her wisdom and insight have been invaluable as we try to make KPU more welcoming to all Indigenous learners, employees and guests, and share with our community our deep respect for the Indigenous peoples of this land,” says Dr. Davis.

The signage uses Brandon Gabriel’s original design of the salmon and the wolf, which forms part of KPU’s coat of arms.

"As a graduate of KPU, I am happy that this effort to respect the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ dialect on university campuses is taking place,” says Brandon Gabriel. “To have such a sought-after language knowledge-keeper like Kwantlen First Nation's Fern Gabriel (a.k.a. Sesməlot) to provide her input is tremendous.

“This language recognition will provide an anchor for the university community to bring more understanding and importance of local Indigenous people and history."

More signage featuring the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ dialect will be installed at KPU’s Surrey campus this week. KPU’s Richmond, Tech and Civic Plaza campuses will also have Indigenous signage installed in due course.