Indigenous history of these Lands

Hay’sxw’qa si’em!

Pronounced "hy-sh-kwa sea-em," this means "thank you, respected one" in the Lekwungen language.

The Royal Roads campus is located on the traditional Lands of the Lekwungen-speaking Peoples, the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. 

This Land has been part of the fabric of their lives since long before Hatley Castle was built. And it will continue to belong into the future. It is with gratitude that we now learn and work here, where the past, present and future of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, faculty and staff come together.

Legacy of the Lands

Songhees and Esquimalt Nations have seen significant change over the past few hundred years.

In 1910, when the provincial government created reserves, their ancestors were relocated from the Victoria Inner Harbour to Esquimalt, where their Nations remain today.

The population of all Indigenous communities in this area was decimated by smallpox and other diseases that the immigrants brought when they came to colonize these Lands.

Indigenous Peoples did not use a system of land ownership the way we understand it today. Still, there is agreement amongst the local Nations that the Esquimalt and Songhees are the remaining relatives across the region in the Lands where the Royal Roads campus is now located.

Carrying a proud legacy gifted to them by the Land and their ancestors, the Esquimalt and Songhees families have persevered through generations as they continue to help one another and pass on their knowledge to future generations.


Traditional uses of the Lands

As the original stewards of these Lands, it was with this environment is a way of life.

Members continue to harvest, prepare foods, collect medicines and pass down the teachings and stories that have kept this area balanced.

The waterways around these areas were also used as roadways to visit different communities.

Plants such as camas continue to be harvested today, and efforts are underway to support and restore traditional ecosystems.

Revitalizing cultural teachings

At a meeting of the presidents of Vancouver Island post-secondary institutions held at Royal Roads University in 2016, Butch Dick, Songhees Nation member of the Heron People Circle, challenged the presidents to enter a team from their respective institutions in a canoe challenge to be held on Esquimalt Lagoon.

It was Butch’s vision to revitalize cultural teachings about protocols, create a signature activity for Royal Roads University’s National Indigenous Peoples Day event, and see canoes on these waters, as he recalled from his childhood.

Read more.