COQUITLAM, B.C. — The Riverview Lands are no more.
B.C. officials announced Wednesday they have been renamed səmiq̓wəʔelə (pronounced Suh-MEE-kwuh-EL-uh), to recognize and honour the Kwikwetlem First Nation’s (kʷikʷəƛ̓əm) historical and cultural ties to its ancestral land.
kʷikʷəƛ̓əm asserts Indigenous rights and title to səmiq̓wəʔelə as part of its core traditional territory.
“The name səmiq̓ʷəʔelə means ‘The Place of the Great Blue Heron’ in our traditional hən̓q̓əmin̓əm language,” said Chief Ed Hall, kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation, in a media release. “This name was given by the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm people based on memories of how the land was once widely used as roosting ground for the great blue heron due to its proximity to what was then the floodplain of the Coquitlam River.
Hall added the renaming of Riverview to səmiq̓ʷəʔelə is significant to the overall goal of reclaiming and revitalizing his culture and traditional language.
The renaming also marks the beginning of a partnership between BC Housing and kʷikʷəƛ̓əm to begin crafting plans for a redevelopment of the iconic Lower Mainland site.
The initial master planning phase will include engagement with the public and key stakeholders this year. The kʷikʷəƛ̓əm Nation will also carry out an extensive community engagement with its membership during this time. The feedback from both engagements will be incorporated into səmiq̓wəʔelə’s master plan.
“The renaming of the site honours the Kwikwetlem First Nation’s ties to this land,” said David Eby, housing minister. “While the site is being used to provide healing services for people, it has the potential to touch many more lives through delivery of more mental health services, recognition and preservation of natural features, opening safe and affordable housing and developing a complete community.”
The site is already home to new provincial programs supporting people with mental health and substance use needs. həy̓χʷət kʷθə šxʷhəliʔ leləm (Healing Spirit House) opened in 2019 and provides a range of direct residential and community mental health services for young people aged 12 to 17, including 38 beds. θəqiʔ ɫəwʔənəq leləm’ (Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addictions) is scheduled to open this summer. It will add 105 beds to support people struggling with complex and severe mental illness and addiction.