How the project got started

The legacy carving project started with a vision that turned into a dream, and now, a reality.  

From L to R: Chas Desjarlais (the dream), Jody Langlois (the reality), Davita Marsden (the vision)

During a 1000-day fast, Davita Marsden, Indigenous education teacher, received a vision where totem poles were landing on the grounds of the Vancouver School District. 

“The totem struck the ground with such force, there was a ripple effect that spanned across All of Turtle Island (North America),” says Marsden. “It was then I knew what to do. My vision was to bring people together, from all across Turtle Island...children to families and communities because change was coming; the ripple was how we will see truth and reconciliation.” 

The Indigenous Education department is founded on nə́c̓aʔmat ct - 'we are one', a theme that stems from unity, similar to Marsden’s vision.

Marsden shared that vision with Chas Desjarlais, District vice principal of Indigenous Education, through a tobacco offering; an Indigenous protocol where tobacco, a scared medicine for Indigenous cultures, is offered when an agreement is made. Chas accepted the tobacco. 

Desjarlais dreamed of having a Reconciliation pole and two Welcome Figures. The purpose behind the Reconciliation pole was to unify all nations to work together in a miyo - ‘good ’way, respecting each others’ hearts and minds. The two Welcome Figures, one male and female, signified gender balance and equity. The Welcome Figures are meant to bring a physical presence to the District, honouring the Musqueam people, protocol and their history as they have been here since time immemorial. 

“I noticed for many years that schools and offices within the District have had many forms of Indigenous art in significant places, but nothing outside reflected a strong Indigenous presence,” says Desjarlais. “It has been my dream, along with many other dreamers, to see our Indigenous peoples acknowledged and have a place of prominence within the landscape of the District.”

Desjarlais brought Marsden’s vision and her dream to Jody Langlois, Associate Superintendent, who supported the project and helped find the resources to make it a reality. 

“Once I heard about the legacy carving project, within days the project was approved and a few months later, finished – an unprecedented amount of time to complete such a project,” says Langlois. “It is my hope this project will teach students of today and tomorrow how we came to this point in terms of reconciliation and how we continue to move forward together.”

The carvings on the Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures will last generations, benefiting all of Vancouver.  #VSBLegacy 

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