About Our Name

We are proud to announce that our new name will be təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre. təməsew̓txʷ means “sea otter house” in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓.

Frequently Asked Questions

The name təməsew̓txʷ is a combination of two words: “təməs” – meaning: sea otter; and “ew̓txʷ” – meaning: house. Together təməsew̓txʷ means “sea otter house” in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓.

The Naming Advisory Panel wanted the name of the new facility to reflect a place where people come together, which was a key theme identified in the community engagement process. Consideration was also given to the names of animals that used to roam the area, specifically aquatic animals to reflect the importance of the river to this land since the pool is a significant part of the new facility.

The Panel identified that the sea otter represented the playfulness and joyfulness that will be reflective of the new space. The sea otter is a very social animal and the Panel felt that this animal can symbolize a connection amongst communities and people.

This land now known as New Westminster is a place where the freshwater of the river meets the saltwater of the sea. Panel members spoke with knowledge keepers from their respective Nations who confirmed that sea otters historically did venture as far upriver as New Westminster.

The best way to learn a word in a new language is to hear it and practice saying it aloud. Listen to hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language teacher Sesmelot (q̓ʷa:̩n̓ƛən̓) demonstrating how to say “təməsew̓txʷ”:

Practice saying the name aloud and sharing it with your family and friends. It is ok to not get it correct right away – it just takes some practice.

To learn more about the pronunciation of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ words, please visit the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ Orthography and Pronunciation Guide on the Musqueam website.

The indigenous knowledge-keepers included in the consultation process asked specifically that we not anglicize or include a phonetic translation to show respect to the original language and provide active learning. In addition to the information and audio file on our website, we are also exploring other opportunities to teach the community about the new name. We acknowledge there will be a period of learning and that it will take time before təməsew̓txʷ becomes part of our everyday vocabulary.

hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ has 36 consonants, 22 of which are not found in English or on a standard keyboard, and does not contain upper case letters.

To support the revitalization of endangered Indigenous languages, the University of British Columbia First Nations and Endangered Languages Program has developed a First Nations Unicode Font which can be downloaded for free and installed on any computer. This font allows you to see and type certain characters used in First Nations languages.

When access to this font is not available, it is acceptable to use the letter most similar to the First Nations characters on your keyboard when searching online or using a mobile device. For example for ‘ə’ use ‘e’.

In 2018-2019, the City of New Westminster engaged with Indigenous peoples living and working in New Westminster to ask them what would make a new aquatic and community centre welcoming and more inclusive for Indigenous individuals, children and families in New Westminster.

A final report from that engagement was produced in June 2019 and set out a number of recommendations. One of those recommendations was to include Indigenous language in the facility, and a suggestion was made to give the new aquatic and community centre an Indigenous name.

At the July 8, 2019 Council meeting, Council directed staff to proceed with implementing a framework to engage with urban Indigenous peoples in New Westminster and local First Nations to identify a name for the future facility that will replace the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre.

The Naming Advisory Panel recommended using a word in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓, which is the downriver dialect and the Indigenous dialect spoken by the original inhabitants in the area now known as New Westminster.

Both the Canada Games Pool and Centennial Community Centre were named because they received funding from the federal government associated with these specific events that took place in 1973 and 1967, respectively. With the new building that will house both an aquatic centre and a community centre comes the need for a new name.

When New Westminster City Council directed City staff to undertake a process to identify and recommend an Indigenous name for the new aquatic and community centre, Council made sure that input from the broader community through an engagement process would be included.

The Naming Advisory Panel expressed the importance of story-telling and having the name of the facility reflect the stories of what residents of New Westminster feel about and will do at the facility. In particular, New Westminster residents were asked to reflect on the following questions:

  • What is this space for you?
  • What is this space for your family?
  • What do you want this space to be?

The City conducted an online survey from December 2019 – January 2020 and held an open house in January 2020. The purpose of this engagement was to gather input from the community on these questions to help inform the Panel rather than to seek specific name suggestions. In total, over 300 people provided input into the naming process through this community engagement.

The predominant themes that came out of the community engagement were:

  • Social Connection
  • Facility as a “gathering place” or “community living room”
  • Inclusivity – the facility is a space for everybody
  • Participate
  • Move
  • Health & Fitness
  • Well-being
  • Swimming

These themes were shared with the Panel to consider when recommending a name to Council. The Panel chose “təməsew̓txʷ Aquatic and Community Centre” because the playfulness, joyfulness, and family-oriented nature of the sea otter specifically reflected many of the predominant themes that came from the community.

In response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Council has named reconciliation, inclusion and engagement as a strategic priority.

The City of New Westminster is in the midst of a reconciliation process, and one of the identified priorities is place-names and place-holding. The human history in this area known as New Westminster is tens of thousands of years old and choosing an Indigenous name for the facility holds space for and acknowledges the importance of this history – which has long been ignored by governments.


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