Carving introduces students to Coast Salish art

Schools & Students

Sir William Van Horne Elementary students gather around master carvers Aaron Nelson-Moody (Splash) and James Harry to take their turn with a wedge and hammer. Some are more timid with tools than others, but at the end of thirty minutes all have contributed to the completion of the seven-foot post.

Splash and Harry have a long history of working with the Vancouver School Board and travel from school to school, teaching students about the culture and traditions of the Coast Salish people who once thrived in the Vancouver area.

The project is a reminder that individual and collective understandings can affect change, and after consulting with the school the artists chose to carve a post featuring two salmon swimming up stream.

“We try to teach kids about the importance of salmon in this area and introduce them to Coast Salish art compared to other First Nations art,” says Harry.

During the process, students of all ages come through to learn about carving, materials, tools, the land before European contact and Coast Salish culture. They also witnessed the arrival of the log at an opening ceremony, which was attended by VSB Knowledge Keeper and Elder in Residence Shane Pointe, Splash, Harry and Harry’s father, Rick Harry, who is also a Coast Salish master carver.

“We want to educate children on the Salish artwork that was in this area, which is not as prevalent as other styles,” says Harry. “This is where I’m from and it is a place and identity to me and teaching students about my culture is a way to create new understandings.”

Upon completion, the post will be featured at the school as a reminder of the Coast Salish people for future students.

The exciting school-wide project helped the school build better relations with the local Aboriginal community, said principal Parin Morgan.

"There's a lot of storytelling during the carving and that fostered a greater sense of community at Van Horne,” she added.

Coast Salish carving at Van Horne Elementary