sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch
Grand Opening of sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch
Thanks to everyone who was able to attend the Grand Opening of the sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch on Saturday, May 26, 2018. Learn more about the new library branch.
The event opened with a First Nations Welcome Prayer by Songhees Elder Dr. Elmer Seniemten George M.S.M. and Esquimalt Nations Elder Mary Ann Thomas. (Photo below.)
Emceed by the Greater Victoria Public Library CEO Maureen Sawa, guest speakers included Dr. George whom the library's Community Room is named after; Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam; Hereditary Chief of the Esquimalt Nation Edward Thomas; Mayor Lisa Helps; GVPL Board Chair Rob Martin; Dr. Verna Gibbs, the great-great-grand niece of Mifflin Wistar Gibbs; Past President of the BC Black History Awareness Society Mavis DeGirolamo; and President of the Friends of the Greater Victoria Public Library Irwin Henderson.
(Below: Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam and Edward Thomas Hereditary Chief of the Esquimalt Nation.)
Below from left to right: Ribbon cutting by Robert Jawl, Director of Jawl Properties; Rob Martin, GVPL Board Chair; Mavis DeGirolamo, Past President of BC Black History Awareness Society; Dr. Verna Gibbs, great-great-grand niece of Mifflin Wistar Gibbs; Mayor Lisa Helps; Dr. Elmer Seniemten George; Irwin Henderson, President of the Friends of GVPL; Esquimalt Nations Elder Mary Ann Thomas; Maureen Sawa, GVPL CEO.)
Below: Mayor Helps presented a certificate of recognition to long-time volunteer Irene Magill, on behalf of the many volunteers who supported the James Bay Community Project library for close to four decades in the neighbourhood.
Community Helps Name the Library
Victoria City Council selected sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch as the name for the new Greater Victoria Public Library that opened to the community on Monday, April 9, 2018.
How to Pronounce the Name
Pronounced s-hweng hw-ung tongue-oo-hw, sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ is the Lekwungen name of the First Nations territory now known as James Bay, on which this library is situated.
The land was named after the Lekwungen family group who lived in the area. The word sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ means “people who talk through their nose,” which is how the Lekwungen ancestors described the family group due to their accent.
There was strong support from the community during the Name That Library campaign to name the new branch a local First Nations name and to consult the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations on a suitable name. In consultation with the two local Nations, the name sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch was selected.
Naming of Two Meeting Rooms
City Council also named the library’s two meeting rooms the Dr. Elmer Seniemten George M.S.M. Community Room (pronounced Sen-eem-ten), and the Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Study Room (pronounced Wis-ter).
Dr. Elmer Seniemten George Community Room
The Songhees and Esquimalt Nations jointly put forward Dr. Elmer Seniemten George’s name to honour the Songhees Elder, who is one of the few remaining fluent speakers of Lekwungen, a dialect of the Northern Straits Salish Peoples. He stewards the survival not only of the language, but also of the traditional teachings and culture embedded in the words.
In 2016, Elder Elmer Seniemten George received an honorary degree from Royal Roads University. In 2017, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (M.S.M.) from the Governor General of Canada for his work with Elder John Elliott in translating the Douglas Treaties of the mid-1850s into the SENĆOŦEN First Nations languages. This work has shed light on the lack of understanding that existed when the treaties were first signed and has provided a foundation for reconciliation. (Photo courtesy of Royal Roads University.) Read Elder Dr. Elmer Seniemten George's biography [PDF - 110 KB].
Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Study Room
City Council honoured the collaborative contributions of Mifflin Wistar Gibbs by naming the library’s study room after this James Bay resident and local merchant, who served as a Victoria City Councillor from 1866 to 1869. In 2016, the City declared November 19 “Mifflin Wistar Gibbs Day” in honour of Gibbs becoming the first black person elected to public office in British Columbia the same day in 1866. The BC Black History Awareness Society and members of the community submitted his name for consideration. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.) Read Mifflin Wistar Gibbs' biography [PDF - 108 KB].
(Below: Dr. Verna Gibbs, the great-great-grand niece of Mifflin Wistar Gibbs and Mavis DeGirolamo, the Past President of BC Black History Awareness Society, spoke at the library's grand opening on May 26, 2018.)
Name That Library Submissions
The City received 623 name submissions from the public through the Name That Library campaign in fall 2017. Of these, 493 submissions suggested a name other than “James Bay Branch”. There was greatest support for a First Nations name, with 157 name submissions and 43 unique names submitted, with many suggesting the City consult with local First Nations on a suitable name. Commemorative person names were next, with 124 name submissions and 52 unique names submitted. Geographic location names (other than “James Bay Branch”) included 79 name submissions with 50 unique names submitted.
Of the 12 branches in the Greater Victoria Public Library system, four have commemorative names and eight reflect geographic locations. The sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ James Bay Branch is the second branch in the City of Victoria.
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