UBC’s new Indigenized academic regalia

Regaila close up

In 2019, UBC approached the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm [Musqueam] and Syilx Okanagan Nation to collaborate on a project that would add Indigenous symbols of host Nations of each respective campus to the academic regalia.

A working group was formed and in early 2020, a call for artists went out to both communities. Chrystal Sparrow, a xʷəməθkʷəy̓əm artist was chosen to create the design. Chrystal had previously designed a stole which was gifted to past president Stephen Toope to wear over his academic regalia on the Vancouver campus.

The newly designed regalia acknowledges the relationship between UBC and the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, and UBC and the Syilx Okanagan peoples. UBC’s Chancellor, the Honourable Steven Point (xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl) and President and Vice-Chancellor, Santa J. Ono will wear the newly designed regalia during the university’s fall academic ceremonies this month.

The colour red represents the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and the Syilx Okanagan Nation. The colour black represents UBC.

Chrystal Sparrow

About the design

“I believe the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm [Musqueam Indian Band], UBC and the Syilx Okanagan Nation share together knowledge, distinctive cultures and respectful relationships,” explains Chrystal. “I created a simple Coast Salish Eye design to represent all three communities. There are four design elements: the middle circle represents people, the dart represents water, the crescent represents land and the arrow represents everyone moving forward. The eye design also represents education as a significant role and connection within all three communities.

The colour red represents the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and the Syilx Okanagan Nation. The colour black represents UBC.

The eagle design for the clasps represent the knowledge keepers and the distinctive cultures of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and the Syilx Okanagan Nation. The Coast Salish eye design in sequences of three will adorn the front of each robe to represent the three communities. The two eagle clasp designs will symbolize all three communities upholding successful futures together.”


About the artist

Chrystal Sparrow is a third-generation xʷməθkʷəy̓əm artist and carver from the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm [Musqueam] Indian Band, whose ancestral and unceded territory is located on what is now called Metro Vancouver. She was traditionally mentored by her late father Irving Sparrow, a master carver; he taught her the significance of Coast Salish designing and carving techniques. Chrystal’s work represents feminine expression that is unique in both traditional and contemporary Coast Salish art forms. She designs and carves red and yellow cedar panels, qeqən [Houseposts], sculptures and works with other art mediums. Chrystal has public art at the YVR Airport, Vancouver School Board, Starbucks, BC Children’s Hospital and other locations.

Chrystal is the inaugural artist and first Coast Salish artist to work in the xʷəməθkʷəy̓əm, Squamish and səl̕ilwətaʔɬ [Tsleil-Waututh] Cultural Residency in Stanley Park from July 2018 to July 2020. In 2019, Chrystal and her brother Chris Sparrow carved a 20 foot Female Welcoming qeqən [Housepost]


See the new Indigenized academic regalia at the virtual installation ceremony for UBC’s 19th Chancellor, the Honourable Steven Point (xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl) and the 2020 fall virtual graduation ceremony. The ceremonies took place on Wednesday November 25, 2020. 

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