The History of Kitsilano
Kitsilano Secondary School, like the neighbourhood where it is located, was named after Xats’alánexw (Khahtsahlanogh). He was a highly respected family headman, or siy̓ám̓ of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) who shared kinship ties to the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), səlil̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Peoples and other Coast Salish communities. His hereditary title was passed-down to his grandson, August Jack Khahtsahlano, at a potlatch in 1893 at the village of Sen̓áḵw on present day Kitsilano Point.
The school was founded in 1917, when overflow classes from King Edward High School were moved to Cecil Rhodes School; however, the first temporary wooden structures built in 1920, at Trafalgar and 12th Avenue, marked the true beginning of Kitsilano High School. The building we now call home opened its doors in 1927.
The students selected royal blue and gold as the school colours, based on those at Aberdeen University (the Alma Mater of one of their teachers); the first Latin classes chose “Fiat Lux” (Let there be light) as the school motto. The original school crest was designed by Mr. S. P. Judge, the first art teacher at Kitsilano, and although the crest has undergone some slight changes over the decades, it still proudly displays our colours and motto.
We demonstrate our school pride each time we sing our school song. “Hail Kitsilano” was composed in 1936 by Ivor Parfitt, the school’s band teacher, and it is still sung at assemblies, events and at graduation each spring.
Over the years, our school has celebrated many milestones, and our history has been enriched by many individuals. Our halls have been graced with the works of artists, including: Jack Shadbolt, Bill Reid, Don Yeomans, and Roy Pederson. Kitsilano has hosted visiting dignitaries such as Prime Ministers Pierre Elliott Trudeau, John Turner, and Jean Chretien, and our school orchestra has shared the auditorium stage with Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and his band.
Throughout Kitsilano’s history, noted achievements have included numerous city and provincial championships in sports, from which several Olympic athletes have emerged. Among these athletes are Olympic track star, Donna Gilmore, Olympic rower and three-time gold medalist, Kathleen Heddle, and Olympic diver, George Athans.
Kitsilano’s students have won top honours in provincial examinations, Rhodes Scholarships, Governor General’s Awards, international awards for the school newspaper and the Annual, and continue to excel in art, drama and music.
Kitsilano is proud of its history, tradition and accomplishments, and all those new to the school are encouraged to learn the history and share that pride.
(Further details about Kitsilano Secondary’s history can be found in: The Chronicles of Kitsilano (1969), The Kitsilano 75th Homecoming book (1995), and in the Kitsilano Archives collection, which is housed in the Library Resource Centre.)