It’s a case of something old and something new in Lytton, with the new K–12 school in the former Kumsheen Secondary School building to be renamed Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School.
The name was one of three suggestions brought to the board of education for consideration at its meeting on Feb. 2, after more than 160 submissions from the public about a new name for the school were received. A committee comprised of school staff, First Nations, Parent Advisory Council members, and students met to develop the process for the naming of the school, and school and community members submitted names to the committee via various methods, including community drop boxes and digital surveys. Submissions included a name of choice and the rationale behind that choice.
The deadline for submissions was Jan. 4, 2021, after which the committee analyzed the submissions and selected three that met the criteria for Board consideration.
The report to the board about Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School noted that more than 100 entries out of 163 received requested the maintenance of the “Kumsheen” name specifically. Kumsheen has a strong traditional cultural meaning (“Meeting of two rivers”), and the report said that the meeting of two schools was analagous to the meeting of two rivers. It was also noted that there is a legacy of pride and connection to the name “Kumsheen”, with families liking the fact that the name would allow them to share that they have been to the same school. The deep meaning of the word Kumsheen, and its historical significance to the area, were cited, as were the facts that the name holds significance provincially for sports and as a community gathering site.
ShchEma-meet is the Nlaka’pamux word for “children”, and the board heard several pronunciations of it (the phonetic approximation is “Sha-mam-meet”). It was noted that replacing the word “Secondary” in the school’s name with “Children” was appropriate.
Two other choices were considered. Tl’kemchEEn ShchEma-meet School retained the Indigenous spelling of Kumsheen, with the name honouring the history of the name in the community (the cover of the school’s 1979 yearbook uses the spelling Tl’kemtsín). Thirty-five per cent of the feedback requested a return to the name that respects the local Nlaka’pamux people, language, and the traditional village name for the area.
Kumsheen ShmOOwa School kept the Kumsheen name, while shmOOwa is the Nlaka’pamux word for “cougar”. This name recognized the significance of the cougar to the area and the school (the Kumsheen sports teams are called the “Cougars”), and maintained the KSS logo. It also kept the connection to local history and stories with “shmOOwa” in the area.
Several board members said that they liked Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School as it retained the KSS acronym that has been in use for the school for several decades. While the board also liked the name incorporating shmOOwa, board co-chair Valerie Adrian noted that in the future the school might decide to drop “cougar” in favour of another animal: “We shouldn’t tie them down in case they want to change.”
The first known reference in English to “Kumsheen” came in 1808, when Simon Fraser wrote of the site (then known by white settlers as “The Forks”) that “These Forks [that] the Indians call Cumchin …” Several meanings have been ascribed to the word: in addition to “meeting of two rivers”, it has been varously taken to mean “cross mouth” (the Fraser crossing the mouth of the Thompson River), “shelf that crosses over” (the flat shelves on either side of the Fraser River), or “great forks” (the intersection of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers).
Work at the new K–12 school in Lytton began 18 months ago and was completed in December 2020. The last of the students at Lytton Elementary moved to Kumsheen on Jan. 11, and the elementary school is now occupied by the Nzen’man Child and Family Development Centre Society, which is using it to provide community child care and family programs. The school district is working with the society to enter into a yearly lease beginning in March 2021.