Staff and students at Windermere Secondary gathered to formally dedicate a new Aboriginal sacred room at the school along with two important works of art.
District vice principal of Aboriginal education Chas Desjarlais describes the sacred room. "It is for our students to come together to meet and to just be," she says. "They may network there with one another or work with other people from the community. It is a space for Aboriginal students to feel comfortable, where they belong, but it is open to everyone."
Ernie LaRochelle, one of Windermere's Aboriginal education enhancement workers, has shepherded the project since its inception four years ago. "This room has nothing to do with religion but everything to do with philosophy and a way of life," he says.
Windermere's sacred room is a bright, welcoming, comfortable place with paintings and quotes adorning every wall. At the unveiling, the assembled guests observe Indigenous protocols, bearing witness with music and warm words honouring the participants.
Also being dedicated at the ceremony are a large mural and a four foot high cedar totem. The bold mural, painted by Jerry Whitehead, Sharifah Marsden and Corey Bulpitt, covers a wide section of the school's exterior. Carver Gerry Sheena created the totem. "The pole has an eagle, a bear and a salmon," he describes. "The salmon represents the students who are on a journey, the bear is courage and the eagle will take prayers to heaven."
"The reason I love all three art installations is because they create community and welcome everyone, says Windermere principal Rick Mesich. "It doesn't matter what culture you're from, you are welcome. These art pieces are not only for our students here now, but for students to come."
Retiring VSB district principal Don Fiddler quoted Louis Riel at the dedication ceremony. "It will be the artists who give them their spirit back" he quoted. "If you want to know about Aboriginal people look at our art. Art is the focal point of much of what we do. This event is presented in the best tradition of our people."
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