Riverview Hospital has a new name.
Wednesday, the provincial government renamed the historical property “səmiq̓wəʔelə” — pronounced Suh-MEE-kwuh-EL-uh — in honour of the Kwikwetlem First Nation’s ties to its ancestral lands. The band, which has territory in the municipalities of Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, has a number of outstanding land-rights claims including for the Riverview grounds.
The name səmiq̓ʷəʔelə is translated from the band’s traditional hən̓q̓əmin̓əm language as ‘The Place of the Great Blue Heron’; the area used to be a roosting site for the bird.
"The renaming of Riverview to səmiq̓ʷəʔelə is very significant to our nation's overall goal of reclaiming and revitalizing our culture and traditional language,” stated KFN Chief Ed Hall, in a press release. “The kʷikʷəƛ̓əm people and Nation look forward to reconnecting with these lands — lands which are on our core, ancestral and unceded territory — by being a meaningful partner with BC Housing in the master planning process and by sharing with the rest of the public our rich history and culture."
The name change comes as the provincial government — through BC Housing, which manages the 244 acres off Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam — and the KFN launch the master planning stage for the ground’s redevelopment. The final phase follows the visioning process for the land, from 2013 to ’15, that ended with the document called A Vision for Renewing Riverview.
The master plan will include, among other things, the overall design and development approach; land-use recommendations including a mix of housing, commercial, education and healthcare; green space and heritage protection strategies; and a financial plan.
Public feedback on the master plan will begin this month, with the first session scheduled for March 30 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. via Zoom. To register for the free event, visit sumiqwuelu.eventbrite.ca.
KFN Enterprises has already made a number of infrastructure changes to the site to incorporate the First Nations’ presence: In 2019, the band and the provincial government opened həy̓χʷət kʷθə šxʷhəliʔ leləm (Healing Spirit House), providing 38 beds to teens with mental health challenges; and θəqiʔ ɫəwʔənəq leləm' (Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addictions) will open this summer, providing 105 beds for people with complex and severe mental illness and addictions.
• Listen to an audio pronunciation of səmiq̓wəʔelə