Tsleil-Waututh Nation community members led a ceremony in celebration of the journey to create a Coast Salish house post. The carving was made by Master Carver Xwalacktun Rick Harry from the Squamish Nation.
Revealed during Truth and Reconciliation Week, the house post represents the house of education for the Burnaby School District. It is permanently displayed outside the front entrance of the District Administration Office.
Burnaby Board of Education Chair Bill Brassington:
We are grateful to Xwalacktun for the gift of this house post, to the members of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation for leading us in ceremony and to the Elders who are sharing their teachings across the District. This incredible house post will stand as a symbol to everyone that the Burnaby School District acknowledges the Coast Salish land on which it stands and welcomes all who come to our schools and workplaces.”
During its creation, the Master Carver worked for many months with students, school, and district staff at Burnaby South Secondary and the BC School for the Deaf. As they carved the red cedar welcome pole for the District together, he shared stories, teachings and culture.
Master Carver Xwalacktun:
This house post tells quite a few stories because it comes from the students. They would come and visit and share some thoughts around the ideas and what we can put on it to represent the school district.”
Each symbol was created with intention by Xwalacktun after connecting with the community:
- A butterfly with aluminum wings represents the deaf community, with two hands below it signing the word butterfly; the butterfly has long been a symbol within the deaf community, as butterflies feel through vibrations. There are thunderbirds on the butterfly wings providing power and strength to watch over us.
- Footprints and animal tracks invite us to consider what tracks we are leaving behind for others to follow, which also includes consideration of the environment.
- Two-spirited people are represented and also us as human beings and our inner and outer spirits.
- The swirl is the energy, the movement, the air, the water. Additionally, the direction it moves mirrors Coast Salish ceremony, which goes counterclockwise, moving with Mother Earth.
- Salmon represent a school of fish, schools, as well as the Burnaby Board of Education and District.
- A bear – representing strength and nurturing – is holding a spindle whorl, which is Coast Salish, and is also representing a medicine wheel.
Tsnomot Brad Baker of the Squamish Nation shared his thoughts on the significance of the house post when he spoke at the ceremony:
This is going to stand here for generations to come. It’s also our kids who are not with us yet today that will benefit from this beautiful marker of the First Nations people here, who have been here since time immemorial.”
Local Indigenous protocol was followed at the ceremony. It celebrated the amazing journey of the creation of the post and was an opportunity to show respect and deep appreciation for the artist’s significant contributions to the Burnaby School District and to honour the protocol of transferring the artwork into the District’s care.
At the end of the last school year, students, school and District staff witnessed and participated in a ceremony at Burnaby South Secondary led by Xwalacktun to “wake up” the welcome pole.
Additional information about Indigenous Education work happening in the Burnaby School District can be found here.
Read the news story in the Burnaby Now.
Posted September 27, 2023