Chilliwack’s two newest schools now have names.
The K-8 school that is to be built along the Vedder River will be called Stitó:s Lá:lém Totí:lt, and the city’s integrated arts and technology school that is coming online in September 2021 will be dubbed Imagine High.
Both names were recommended by a naming committee, following community submissions. But in both cases, the choices weren’t favoured by three trustees on the board. Trustees Heather Maahs, Barry Neufeld and Darrell Furgason all voiced displeasure with the choices, for various reasons.
For the full discussion, visit the Chilliwack School District’s YouTube page.
Stitó:s Lá:lém Totí:lt
Furgason spoke strongly against using solely a First Nations name for the K-8 school. The name was approved by several local First Nations leaders and reflects the history of the area of the school.
“It is a very difficult collection of words,” he said, in the April 28 meeting that was recorded via Zoom. “I think this name … is exclusive and we need it to be inclusive. I’m more open to the diversity here, multiculturalism. We have a city that has many cultural groups that are larger than First Nations. Not that I’m disrespecting. Here’s what I want to make this clear, in discussing anything on this board it doesn’t mean one is a racist or a bigot, or anti First Nations people.”
He said there are “other meaningful ways” the school district could honour First Nations culture. That was eventually countered by Trustee Willow Reichelt, who was on the naming committee of about one dozen people.
“It’s six syllables,” she said. “Let’s buck up and learn to say it. The idea that children can’t learn six syllables … is quite frankly ridiculous.”
She noted that First Nations children for years were taken from their families and put into English-speaking residential schools and forced to learn new cultures.
Furgason disagreed that naming a school was a time to demonstrate reconciliation.
“If you feel like reconciliation means that you have to do all these things to demonstrate that hundreds of years ago – and that was the argument before – ‘these people have for hundreds of years gone to residential schools,’ That’s not a reason to name a school,” Furgason countered. “That’s a political point at an attempt to show reconciliation in this simple little way.”
Maahs and Neufeld and Furgason all favoured a combination of Stitó:s Lá:lém Totí:lt and the committee’s second choice, River’s Edge. An amendment to combine the two, with River’s Edge placed first, was proposed but failed.
“We want a name that everyone can proudly say and pronounce,” Maahs said, adding that learning the First Nations name would “come later.”
Trustee David Swankey was among the four trustees who voted in favour of the First Nations name, which would casually be referred to as Stitó:s (pronounced stee-tahs).
He said they acknowledge that they are on unceded Sto:lo territory at the beginning of every meeting, but that this would add “just a sliver of depth to that acknowledgment.”
Trustee Jared Mumford noted that when he heard the name, he researched it with his school-age children as a learning opportunity. He added it took his young son about five minutes to learn the pronunciation.
The new name for the new arts and technology school was also problematic for the same three trustees, and the discussion about it lead to some bickering among the board.
Imagine High was chosen over the second place choice, Midtown, which mirrors the name of the community that’s been created in the old UFV neighbourhood. Imagine High will be created through an expansion of AD Rundle and part of the old UFV site.
“I’m not happy with either name,” Neufeld stated. “Midtown does seem a little too mundane.”
He, Maahs and Furgason wanted to refer the task back to the naming committee, hoping they could garner more suggestions from the community.
Furgason said he didn’t like the word “High,” adding “it’s got trick meanings to it.”
Neufeld said he wanted the committee to “put their thinking caps on once again and think of something less informal.”
The committee didn’t create the names, but sifted through the suggestions sent in from the community.
“I’ve heard that kids will say ‘this is the school where kids get high’,” Neufeld added. He also said he doesn’t feel the name reflects arts and technology.
As the board discussed the name, the process of how the committee was made up, and created was discussed as well. It was decided by the board previously to get a committee of volunteers together. But during that conversation, things got heated between some trustees.
Board chair Dan Coulter said it boggles his mind that his fellow trustees would start questioning the work of a committee, and that they set up the process themselves as a board.
Maahs told board chair Dan Coulter to “save the moral righteousness indignation on committee work,” referring to when the board sent work back to the dress code committee in the past.
Both names were passed by the board, with Furgason, Maahs and Neufeld voting against both.
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