On the name “Capilano”

Readers of TCR will soon notice a new acknowledgement added to our colophon and organizational communications with regards to the name “Capilano.” As a publication that has historically been run by settlers, we’re working to address the fact that the Indigenous name qiyəplenəxʷ, often transliterated as Kiapila’noq and anglicized as “Capilano,” has been used in our magazine’s title since 1972 without permission.

As a first step in taking accountability for our use of the name “Capilano,” we’d like to share resources we’ve collected as part of this acknowledgement, as well as teachings on the name qiyəplenəxʷ that have appeared in the pages of our magazine. While it is not our place, nor the intention of this note, to provide cultural understandings on the name qiyəplenəxʷ, an important resource is the article “Meanings of Musqueam ancestral names: the Capilano tradition,” authored by Elder Larry Grant, Susan J. Blake, and Ulrich C. Teucher. In “Section 3.1: The qiyəplenəxʷ name in public use,” the article explains:

Many public places, streets, institutions, and businesses, mainly in the North Vancouver area, carry the name “Capilano,” an anglicized version of the traditional Salish name qiyəplenəxʷ, beginning with the Capilano River that springs just south of Mt. Capilano, collecting its waters in Capilano Lake, one of Vancouver’s fresh water reservoirs, before it runs underneath the Capilano Suspension bridge . . . Alongside the river runs Capilano Road; Capilano Golf Club is situated just west, while Capilano College lies further east, home to the respected literary journal, The Capilano Review

The authors discuss that while the name qiyəplenəxʷ has been “anglicized and widely used as ‘Capilano,’ its historical origins, morphology, and semantics have not been discussed.” ² They add that exploring the historical origins and meanings of ancestral names must be undertaken with “great sensitivity.” ³

While The Capilano Review is no longer housed in what is now Capilano University, we’ve kept the institution’s name since establishing ourselves as an independent publication in 2015 — a point we are now looking at as we consider our publication’s name moving forward. Over the past five years, Capilano University has been working to enhance its official land acknowledgement by consulting with local Elders and knowledge keepers and has added the following acknowledgement to its wider land acknowledgement: “Capilano University is named after Chief Joe Capilano, an important leader of the Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) Nation of the Coast Salish people.” ⁴  

The name qiyəplenəxʷ was ceremonially passed to Sa7plek (Sahp-luk), Chief Joe Capilano before he visited England in 1906 to lay grievances before King Edward VII. In her 2017 interview with TCR, Siyam Lee Maracle relates that: “His name — his real name — was not big enough . . . This name had a higher status, and he couldn’t just go to England and talk to people without a high-status name, without a name with authority.” ⁵

In Jordan Wilson’s “from qeqen: A Walking Tour of Musqueam House Posts at UBC published in TCR Issue 3.35, he writes:

To describe qiyəplenəxʷ as an important ancestral name feels like an understatement. The name carries a legacy which I feel unqualified to speak to. For example, Musqueam oral history holds that the second qiyəplenəxʷ greeted Spanish explorer Narváez, who anchored west of present day Point Grey on July 5, 1791, and Captain Vancouver in 1792. Ancestral names are passed down through the generations, along with associated rights and responsibilities. Big names, or names of a high status, as one might imagine, are associated with positions of leadership and jurisdiction over lands and waters. In other words, inherited names are an integral part of Musqueam governance. Charlie Capilano, who also carried the name qiyəplenəxʷ, was present at the McKenna-McBride Commission. Today, respected Musqueam elder Howard E. Grant carries the name. Simply put, it is important to recognize the continuous legacy of qiyəplenəxʷ . . . ⁶  

In his 2018 interview with TCR, Elder Larry Grant speaks to the importance of learning the proper pronunciation of Indigenous hereditary names and place names.

. . . with qiyəplenəxʷ, which is anglicized to “Capilano,” lenəxʷ— the xʷ at the end—is not a sound that’s important in English, but it’s important in Hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓. So they end up leaving it as an “o,” “Capilano,” but it’s qiyəplenəxʷ . . . It took me probably 20 years to be able to be conversant, at an elementary level of English, so after four tries, trying to make sounds that you’re not familiar with, why should I dumb down? You should try harder and harder and harder, just like our ancestors did to learn how to speak English, and speak it properly, or accurately . . . ⁷

The teaching resource xwməθkwəyə̓ m: qwi:l̕qwəl̕ ʔə kwθə snəw̓eyəɬ ct Musqueam: giving information about our teachings sheds further light on this topic in “Chapter 3: Teaching Language: hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ Orthography and Pronunciation Guide.”

hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ has 36 consonants, 22 of which are not found in English . . . Since the majority of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ sounds are different from those of English, the English alphabet (orthography) is not an adequate nor a straightforward system for writing hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ words. Instead, Musqueam uses the North American Phonetic Alphabet (NAPA), where each sound is represented by a single distinct symbol. This is a significant advantage for learning how to read, as the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ alphabet creates consistency of interpretation and predictability of pronunciation. Though they may appear foreign at first, symbols like “ə,” called “schwa,” are found in the pronunciation guides of most English dictionaries. ⁸

ə = the u in “but”

ʷ= The little w next to a letter means that the particular sound is made with your lips rounded

We look forward to soliciting and compensating audio, visual, and written works that continue the conversation of the importance of recognizing Indigenous places and names, their orthographies and pronunciations, while confronting issues of settler appropriation — including our own — in our local context and the publishing sector we operate in. In the meantime, readers can find all works related to local Indigenous places and names published in TCR in a new features category on our website. 

  1. Larry Grant, Susan J. Blake, and Ulrich C. Teucher, “Meanings of Musqueam Ancestral Names: The Capilano Tradition,” The University of British Columbia Working Papers in Linguistics 14 (2004): 48.
  2. Ibid, 45.
  3. Ibid, 46.
  4. “Land Acknowledgements,” Capilano University, Last Modified January 7, 2022, https://libguides.capilanou.ca/c.php?g=721448&p=5211822.
  5. Si’yam Lee Maracle, interview by Fenn Stewart, The Capilano Review, Issue 3.35 (Spring 2018): 16.
  6. Jordan Wilson, “from qeqen: A Walking Tour of Musqueam House Posts at UBC,” The Capilano Review, Issue 3.38 (Spring 2019): 79-80.
  7. Larry Grant and Sarah Ling, interview by Fenn Stewart, The Capilano Review, Issue 3.38 (Spring 2018): 67.
  8. “Chapter 3: Teaching Language: hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ Orthography and Pronunciation Guide,” in xwməθkwəyə̓ m: qwi:l̕qwəl̕ ʔə kwθə snəw̓eyəɬ ct Musqueam: giving information about our teachings, Musqueam First Nation, 69, https://moa.ubc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Teachers-Resource-ENGLISH-March30_sm.pdf.

Further reading and listening

  • Chiefs of the Cowichan and Bonaparte nations travelled with Chief Joe Capilano to England to lay grievances before King Edward VII and to discuss the destructive changes taking place on their territories as a result of colonization and the loss of Indigenous land and fishing rights. Learn more about Chief Joe Capilano in the article “Su-á-pu-luck– A man on the threshold of change.”

This is a living organizational document that has been compiled by TCR’s staff and board. It will be amended and updated as receive feedback and are made aware of further resources.

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