The race is on to come up with a name for a new elementary school scheduled to open next fall on the site of soon-to-be-demolished University Hill Secondary. Its students currently attend classes at something called Acadia Road Elementary — actually just a collection of portable classrooms plunked several blocks away outside of Queen Elizabeth Elementary — and the hope is to come up with a name that will instead pay tribute to First Nations history because the school will be built on traditional Musqueam territory.
Kudos to the Vancouver School Board for recognizing that simply naming schools after the streets they are located on is hardly an example of the creative thinking educators strive to inspire in young minds. Also, seeing as how the Acadians were French settlers to Canada who stole land from aboriginal people only to have it stolen back from them by the British, it seems a bit gauche to name a school on land stolen from aboriginal people by the British in their honour.
The VSB says it’s open to suggestions and is accepting submissions online until Jan. 18. In the off chance none of ours receive the thoughtful and serious consideration from the board’s naming committee we feel they deserve, we decided to at least list them here for posterity:
• Xwayxway Vista Elementary: While a recent bid by a Squamish Nation hereditary chief to rename Stanley Park “Xwayxway” wasn’t successful, this new school near UBC would at least overlook the same area. School board trustee Mike Lombardi earlier has said that names reflecting the region’s aboriginal heritage would be looked on with particular favour, so our fingers are crossed. As an added bonus, the words “vista,” “elementary” and “school” could also be translated into their rough Coast Salish equivalents to give us Xwayxway UúÛusm Säåièlt Snaàõçìimíntn. It might be tough to pronounce or fit easily on sports jerseys, but we can already picture bumper stickers with the slogan: “Proud parents of a Xwayxway UúÛusm Säåièlt Snaàõçìimíntn honour student.”
• University Hill Secondary Elementary: A new school on the site wouldn’t be possible if University Hill Secondary hadn’t made the ultimate sacrifice to make way for it, and this could be a fitting way to acknowledge it as an important part of Vancouver’s heritage. A lot of University Hill Secondary Elementary students would presumably be the offspring of brainy UBC professors and learning at a high school level before most kids anyway.
• Degrassi Elementary: While we are admitted longtime boosters of all things Degrassi, greenlighting this name would also allow for the possibility that children of Rebecca Haines-Saah, who played gossipy Kathleen Mead on the original series and is now a postdoctoral research fellow at UBC’s School of Nursing, might some day attend the school. UBC is also where the high-achieving K.C. Guthrie of Degrassi: The Next Generation is currently studying biology, which would add a whole new level of awesome.
• Captain Jack Sparrow Elementary: Sparrow is a common last name among the Musqueam and this could be a way to both acknowledge local history without playing favourites while also appealing to fans of the lovable ne’er-do-well played by Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. It’s also worth noting that Depp first became famous by playing an undercover cop posing as a student on 21 Jump Street, a Vancouver-filmed show that helped kickstart a local film industry now providing employment opportunities to countless former VSB students. Mixing aboriginal culture with a Disney film might seem tacky to some, but surely not as tacky as the 1995 animated film Pocohontas, never mind the direct-to-video sequel.
(This post was first published in Kudos & Kvetches © Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier)