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New UVic buildings get names inspired by local First Nations

The first of the new student and dining buildings, started in 2019 and completed last year, is called Cheko’nien House, while the second, to be completed by September, is called Sngequ House.
UVic law students Clarissa Peter, left, and Chésa Abma-Slade reveal the names of the two new housing and dining buildings on the University of Victoria on Wednesdya, April 5, 2023. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Two new student housing and dining buildings at the University of Victoria now have Lekwungen names.

In a ceremony on Wednesday, the Songhees and Esquimalt nations gave the university permission to use the names.

The first of the new student and dining buildings, started in 2019 and completed last year, is called Cheko’nien House (Čeqʷəŋín ʔéʔləŋ), after the name given to the territory that is now Oak Bay, and the First Peoples who lived there.

Cheko’nien House encompasses two new buildings and is the largest capital project in UVic’s history. The new buildings provide 783 total student spaces, with 398 beds for students in Building 1, along with the Cove dining hall that is open to the campus community.

Building 2 provides 385 student beds, two 225-seat classrooms and an Indigenous student lounge and meeting rooms.

The second of the new buildings, to be completed by September, is called Sngequ House (Sŋéqə ʔéʔləŋ), after a village in what is now known as Cadboro Bay that was used for camas harvesting, trading and cultural and spiritual practices. The name means snow patches.

“We want to raise our hands and acknowledge everyone who has helped to carry out this good work,” said Robina Thomas (Qwul’sih’yah’maht), vice-president Indigenous at UVic. “The building names will be a constant reminder of the history of these lands and will hopefully inspire critical reflections and educational opportunities for the campus community.”

UVic had asked First Nations chiefs and councils, elders and community members for guidance and direction on the building naming.

The university began the naming process by consulting with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation students, community members and chief and council.

The names were suggested by elder Seniemten, Dr. Elmer George, one of the last fluent Lekwungen speakers, who has made it his life’s work to revitalize the language. George’s grandfather was from Cheko’nien and Sngequ.

Chésa Abma-Slade, UVic law student and Esquimalt Nation member, said she’s grateful to see such changes during her time at UVic, and that local elders had the opportunity to witness them.

To hear the pronunciation of the names, as spoken by George, go to:

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