Indigenizing UBC’s Academic Regalia

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 of our senior administration. A working group was formed with representation from both communities along with UBC staff from both campuses. In early 2020, a Call for Artists was distributed to both communities inviting artists to conceptualize how to Indigenize the academic regalia and acknowledge the relationship between UBC and xʷəməθkʷəy̓əm, and UBC and the Syilx Okanagan peoples. The applications were reviewed by the working group and the successful artist is Chrystal Sparrow, a xʷəməθkʷəy̓əm artist. Chrystal had previously designed a stole which was gifted to Past President Stephen Toope to wear over his academic regalia on the Point Grey campus.
UBC’s 19th Chancellor, the Honourable Steven Point (xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl) and UBC’s 15th President and Vice-Chancellor, Santa J. Ono were honoured to wear the newly designed regalia for the first time as part of the university’s fall academic ceremonies in November, 2020.

Chrystal Sparrow, Musqueam 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] for the Vancouver School Board Reconciliation Legacy Project.
Chrystal holds great honor for her father Irving Sparrow as he prepared an important path for her to become a female artist and carver. She believes her role as an artist is to continue creating a unique Coast Salish art language through carving, painting and sharing stories for the next generation.

Artist’s Vision Statement

“I believe the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm [Musqueam Indian Band], the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Syilx Okanagan Nation share together knowledge, distinctive cultures and respectful relationships.

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 color red represents the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and the Syilx Okanagan Nation. The color 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.”
– Chrystal Sparrow