Celebrating Xpey’ Elementary with an official naming ceremony

Schools & Students

There is a lot in a name -- names convey who we are; where we live, work, play; and what matters to us. This was all very much evident last week during a school community celebration held to officially name “Xpey’.” 

In the Musquean dialect of henqeminem, Xpey’ means cedar, which has cultural, educational, historical and spiritual resonance for this school’s community. The name reflects deep respect for the cedar tree as it plays an integral role in the spiritual beliefs and ceremonial life of local Indigenous peoples. 

Last Friday, the Xpey’ community invited trustees, district staff, parents, family members and friends to join a special afternoon ceremony to officially name the school. The naming ceremony reflected local Indigenous cultural traditions. 

According to Musqueam custom, the ceremony included the participation of families and witnesses as well as an exchange of gifts. The organizing committee asked school administrators and teachers to fill the role of family members. Witnesses included elders from Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Prior to the naming ceremony, teachers and administrators at the school gathered with children to witness the planting of a cedar tree. 

The afternoon’s celebrations continued with student performances, including a signing of the Coast Salish Anthem, as well as drumming and dancing performances by guests including the Squamish Nation dance group, Urban Haida dance group, kwakwaka’wakw dance group and White Buffalo, powwow dancer. 

The school community was honoured by the presence of Celeste Haldane, Chief Commissioner of the BC Treaty Commission. As emcee for this celebration of culture, she shared her own acknowledgement of the joy and hope she personally felt the afternoon bestowed. 

The festivities wrapped-up with a thank you to a long list of volunteers and supporters – from renaming committee  participants to school staff and parents who lent a hand in crafting items used in the ceremony. 

The day was the culmination of more than two years work, starting with a committee that came together to help rename the school previously known as William MacDonald. More than 30 suggestions were submitted to the 45-person committee. Cedar Cove received the most votes. District staff then asked Musqueam Nation members for help with the new name – Xpey’ was the result. A recounting of the symbolic importance of Xpey’ – cedar – will be passed down from grade to grade in years come. Like the cedar, which is a powerful symbol of strength and revitalization, the school community continues its journey with renewed vigor and shared pride.

Xpey’ Naming Ceremony