30th Anniversary Celebration

The First Nations Longhouse opened on May 25, 1993.

The First Nations Longhouse and Xwi7xwa Library opened on May 25, 1993. The First Nations House of Learning, which manages the Longhouse, and Xwi7xwa Library organized the following monthly events and initiatives during 2023 in honour of this worthy milestone. Please take a few minutes to learn about them.


Attended by faculty, staff and students, the First Nations House of Learning (FNHL) hosted a grand opening for the Longhouse’s new east wing.

Photo: L-R: Verna Kirkness, Leona Sparrow, Margaret Moss, Larry Grant.
[click on photo to enlarge]

See related tweet.


FNHL, along with Indigenous Learning Pathways, a collaborative project between UBC Human Resources Talent Development & Engagement and CTLT Indigenous Initiatives, commissioned UBC Studios to feature Sty-Wet-Tan Great Hall on the Matterport platform, resulting in a 360° virtual tour of this magnificent room. Take the tour!


FNHL and Xwi7xwa Library released the digital version of The First Nations Longhouse: Our Home Away from Home. Originally published in 2001, Verna Kirkness and Jo-ann Archibald provide a firsthand account of the construction, opening and purpose of the First Nations Longhouse, including the people behind its development. Digitization of the book was made possible by EBSCO community funding.


FNHL hosts an Indigenous student lunch to celebrate the Longhouse’s 30th anniversary, which was attended by over 100 students. Students were introduced to current and former Indigenous students who shared their thoughts on what the Longhouse means to them. Students were asked to fill out a Mentimeter form using one word to describe what the Longhouse represents to them, which created an insightful word cloud (open image).


The signature event of this celebratory year was the 30th anniversary dinner held in Sty-Wet-Tan Great Hall. The dinner was well-attended by Indigenous faculty, staff, and students, as well as UBC leadership and others, including BC AFN Regional Chief Terry Teegee and Premier David Eby. The highlight of the evening included some of the artists whose houseposts are in the Great Hall and past FNHL directors and the inaugural Head of Xwi7xwa Library talking about the Longhouse’s anniversary. The theme of the event was “Looking back on 30 years, looking forward to the next 30.”


FNHL hosted Open House @ The Longhouse, whereby the university community was invited to tour the Longhouse in honour of the Longhouse and Xwi7xwa Library’s 30th anniversary, as well as National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21st. Visitors learned about and experience both facilities through self-guided tours and informative talks with staff. As an added attraction, Xwi7xwa Library displayed the Indigenous Atlas of Canada in Sty-Wet-Tan Great Hall (see photo), which shows the territories of Indigenous peoples and walks people through the progression of non-Indigenous people coming to their lands, to what is now Canada.


In order to capture and reflect the deep appreciation many people across campus and beyond have for the Longhouse and Xwi7xwa Library, FNHL releases the “30th Anniversary Celebration” page on the Indigenous Portal (the page you are on now).


UBC Media Relations, in partnership with FNHL, produced a feature story on the Longhouse’s 30th anniversary, which was picked up by CBC News. The story features comments from UBC student, Dave Robinson, FNHL’s first director, Verna Kirkness, as well as current director, Margaret Moss, who also provided additional commentary about the Longhouse in this Q&A.


If you could speak to the UBC Indigenous community in the future, what would you say? The First Nations House of Learning is creating a time capsule, to be opened on May 25th, 2053 – the 60th anniversary of the Longhouse’s official opening. Current Indigenous students, faculty, staff and units are invited to add an item to the capsule. Once items have been collected, a time capsule ceremony will be conducted at a date TBD.


The First Nations House of Learning is very pleased to announce that video interviews with many of the artists behind the splendid houseposts in Sty-Wet-Tan Great Hall, including the ceremonial door, have been uploaded to the Great Hall’s 3D virtual tour. Take the tour and see and hear artists Lyle Wilson (Beaver and Eagle, Ceremonial Door), Stan Bevan and Ken McNeil (Man and Raven), and Rodney Harris (Wolf and Wolf Pup) talk about their magnificent creations.


The First Nations House of Learning is pleased to release these short videos of five former FNHL Directors speaking on the subject of the Longhouse’s 30th Anniversary.

Among topics covered, Dr. Verna Kirkness tells the Longhouse’s origin story; Dr. Jo-ann Archibald reads a speech Dr. Kirkness gave at the Longhouse’s opening in 1993; Dr. Richard Vedan talks about the houseposts in Sty-Wet-Tan Great Hall and their stories from “time immemorial”; Dr. Linc Kesler discusses the Longhouse’s role in shaping Indigenous engagement at UBC; and, Dr. Margaret Moss describes the challenge of maintaining student programming at the Longhouse during COVID-19.


At this month’s Indigenous staff and faculty lunch in Sty-Wet-Tan Great Hall, the First Nations House of Learning and Xwi7xwa Library screened the 1994 film, The Story of the First Nations Longhouse, UBC, 1991-1993. Honoured guests and elders, Verna Kirkness and Larry Grant, attended this special event, which was made all the more special as this was the first time they had seen it. This 30-minute film, now online for the first time, delves into the importance of the First Nations Longhouse at The University of British Columbia as told by those who contributed to its construction and were there when it opened on May 25, 1993.

This is the last event of the 30th anniversary series. Thanks to everyone who participated and followed along during this special year.