Since the fall of 2016, Kwi Awt Stelmexw has been working with teachers in Metro Vancouver to design teaching materials to be used along with the Squamish place names map. The new design of reflects what we’ve heard that teachers need in order to incorporate more local Indigenous content and worldviews in their classrooms. Read about the new features on the About page.

By adding the new side panel sections with information about each place, our hope is that teachers can begin to incorporate this information into their lessons, no matter the subject or grade. This information is deliberately general and flexible, so that each teacher can use it in ways that suit the unique context of their classroom. We have also attempted to write the information section using language suitable for younger children to read and understand on their own.

Below you can read about the importance of place name recognition, view sample lesson plans, find a list of possible activities using the map for different subject areas, and access some useful links and resources. We will continue to update these sections, and welcome teachers to send us your ideas for, or stories of, using the map in your classrooms. Contact us with your ideas!

Why Is Place Name Recognition Important?

Recognizing Indigenous place names help us understand the history and current issues of local Indigenous groups, and can be an entry point for reconciliation. When we learn that there are alternative names to the places around us, we might begin to ask ourselves questions such as “how did this place get its name?”, “what information does the original place name tell me about this place?”, and “who changed the name and why?” Some of these questions open the door to discussions about colonial history, local geography, Indigenous culture and perspectives, and our relationship to land and place. The first step towards change is awareness. Our hope is that by educating children (and adults!) that we live and learn on Sḵwx̱wú7mesh territory, and that the places around us have a history deeply rooted in Sḵwx̱wú7mesh culture, they might become agents for change towards a more equitable future rooted in respectful relationships with the original peoples of this place.

Lesson Plans

The following lesson plans introduce students to Sḵwx̱wú7mesh culture by learning Sḵwx̱wú7mesh place names and the stories behind them.

In Lesson Plan 1, students reflect on how places get their names and what information we can learn about people and cultures from place names. It is divided into six parts, which can be taught individually over several days or weeks, or combined into longer lessons depending on the needs and possibilities of each classroom. This lesson has been designed to align with the British Columbia Social Studies curriculum for Grade 3. However, it can be easily adapted for use in other subject areas and grades (including for high school) – and we encourage teachers to do so!

Lesson Plan 1 – Grade 3 Social Studies

In Lesson Plan 2, students work on an introductory activity that has them reflect on colonial name changes, followed by a research project on Sḵwx̱wú7mesh place names. This lesson has been designed to align with the British Columbia Social Studies curriculum for Grade 10. Again, however, it can be easily adapted for use in other subject areas and grades (including for elementary school) – and we encourage teachers to do so!

Lesson Plan 2 – Grade 10 Social Studies

Other Suggested Activities

Language Arts

  • Comprehension and writing activities to accompany place name readings
  • Learn a place name and imagine the story behind the name, discuss how names come to be and what the criteria should be when choosing a place name, then compare to the actual story of place name and report back on any lessons learned
  • Create welcome materials for visitors to the territory with descriptions of the important places

Social Studies

  • Work individually or in groups to research one place including the history of name, the history of the place, and what currently happens at the place to present to the class
  • In preparation for visiting Cheakmus Centre (Big House), learn about the history and current issues at the places between your school and the centre

Geography & Science

  • Learn the seasonal cycles of areas including discussion of weather patterns, seasonal activities, foods and animals, etc.
  • Research the major resources and uses on Squamish territory historically and today
  • Use mapping tools to measure distance, elevation, etc.
  • Environmental awareness and protection projects

Arts Education

  • Draw, paint, make models, etc. of places before colonization
  • Create art to accompany stories of place names
  • Art history project on artists from different places on the map

Additional Resources

Coast Salish Stories by Celestine Aleck (2016) – readers for Grades 1-4 from Strong Nations publishing

Legends of Vancouver by E. Pauline Johnson (1911) – stories related by Chief Joe Capilano of the Squamish peoples

Plant Walks with Lori Snyder – Aboriginal herbalist

Shared Learnings: Integrating BC Aboriginal Content K-10 (2006) – From the BC Ministry of Education, Appendix D provides a list of suggestions for Map and Mapping Activities

Squamish Legends – Collections of Squamish stories on

Takaya Tours – canoe and kayak tours through Indian Arm led by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Useful Links

Aboriginal Worldviews & Perspectives in the Classroom (2015) – BC Ministry of Education

BCTF Aboriginal Education Teaching Resources – guides and learning materials for several subjects 

First Nations Education Steering Committee resources – guides for several subjects 

Project of Heart – lessons for teaching Aboriginal history and issues in Canada