About X̱wi7x̱wa Library

What about Xwi7xwa is special?

  • Xwi7xwa Library is the only Aboriginal branch of an academic library in Canada
  • it is often looked to as a leader in Indigenous Academic Librarianship in the province and the country
  • its staff, services, and collections are key drivers that support the UBC Aboriginal Strategic plan and Indigenous initiatives in UBC Library’s strategic plan

Xwi7xwa is known for:

  • a unique Aboriginal classification system and subject headings (see Indigenous Knowledge Organization)
  • librarians and staff who are knowledgeable about Indigenous content
  • one-of-a-kind collections that privilege Indigenous perspectives
  • a unique architecture that represents an interior Salish pit-house

First Nations House of Learning Bibliography:


What is the story of the logo?

Tsimshian artist Glen Wood created the First Nations House of Learning logo.  It consists of a human face surrounded by two ravens, which also form the frame of a longhouse.  The face is a humanoid with frog-like features and represents First nations people.  The house design represents the university, or “House of Learning” which is the way some Aboriginal languages refer to schools.  The Raven, a symbol of creativity and learning, is also known as a trickster or transformer in many First Nations cultures.  As represented here, Raven is transforming the university to reflect First Nations cultures and philosophies, linking the university to First Nations communities.

For more information about our logo and our usage policy see here.

How do you pronounce the name of the X̱wi7x̱wa Library? What does it mean?

X̱wi7x̱wa is pronounced ‘whei-wha.’ X̱wi7x̱wa means “echo” in the Squamish language, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Sníchim.

Chief Simon Baker of the Squamish Nation gave the name to the library at the First Nations House of Learning Opening Ceremonies on May 25, 1993. The mandate of the X̱wi7x̱wa Library is to “echo” the voices and philosophies of Aboriginal people through its services, collections, and programs.

From The First Nations Longhouse: our home away from home:

Kirkness, V. J., & Archibald, J. (2001). The First Nations Longhouse: our home away from home. Vancouver: First Nations House of Learning.

“Chief Baker bestowed the Squamish name X̱wi7x̱wa, pronounced ‘whei wha,’ on William Bellman, who had donated $1 million to the project.  Chief Baker explained:  X̱wi7x̱wa means ‘echo’ in our language.  When our people traveled in the early days, the echo served as a compass.  When a person hollered, the ‘echo’ let you know how far you were from the beach.  There is a story, which is very long, that has been handed down over the years about X̱wi7x̱wa.  When you hear the story, you draw your own conclusions about its teaching.  If you ever have lots of time, come over, and I’ll tell you the whole story.  I believe the name X̱wi7x̱wa is the right name for you because of your early work in radio and television, which like the echo was a way to communicate.  The library will carry your name and be known as X̱wi7x̱wa Library in your honour.  I feel that the library is very important to the students who are studying here.  It will be a place where they can read about what our people did in the past.  I give you this paddle to help you in the future.  Don’t leave home without it!  My wife gives you this drum to remember this occasion.”

Find this book at Xwi7xwa: GH K57 F57 2001

Buy this book at the UBC Bookstore.


Former Head Librarian of the Xwi7xwa Library (First Nations House of Learning Library) at the University of British Columbia, Gene Joseph is of Wet’suwet’en – Nadleh Whut’en descent. She is from the small village of Hagwilget in northern British Columbia. She has over three decades of experience in developing libraries for First Nations tribal councils, bands and organizations. One of Gene’s career highlights was the development of a legal research library for the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations in the Delgamuukw et al v. the Queen et al aboriginal title court case. It was one of the largest court cases held in Canada, as well as one of the first to extensively use computer systems in and out of the courtroom. More importantly to the First Nations people, there was extensive use of oral history in support of the case. Gene continued her commitment to aboriginal title through her work for the Haida aboriginal title case, working with the EAGLE (Environmental Aboriginal Guardianship through Law and Education) organization from 2002 to 2006. She continued her commitment to aboriginal title and rights through her work as a senior advisor and Director of Research and Litigation Support for White Raven Law from 2008 until her retirement in 2015.

The Gene Joseph Scholarship is awarded in her honour.

What is this structure called?

Our building is designed after structures built by Interior Salish nations. In the Chinook Jargon it is called a Kekuli, in English it is called a pit house, and in Ucwalmícwts (Lil’wat nation) it is called a S7ístken. Other nations that live in these homes are the Tsilhqot’in, Ktunaxa, Nlaka’pamux, and the Secwepemc.

Although our roof is exposed they are normally covered with bark, earth, grass, and needles. The hole at the centre allows smoke to escape from the fire inside. The central pole is used as a ladder to enter and exit but visitors are unable to use this feature with the absence of notches to ensure proper footing. Visitors must use our staircase and accessible ramp instead.


Our branch is 198 square metres and half subterranean. Within, patrons have access to our collections, archives, computers and other technology equipment, and gender neutral washrooms.

For more information on the design of X̱wi7x̱wa Library, see this blog post.