Vancouver, BC – Today, on National Indigenous Peoples Day, the Vancouver School District unveiled one reconciliation pole and two welcome figures at the Education Centre in honour of truth and reconciliation.
The reconciliation pole and the two welcome figures standing beside each other will be a national first for a public-school district. Carved out of 300 to 500-year-old red cedar logs, the pole and welcome figures are a reminder of the District's connection to the First peoples, the Musqueam nation whose unceded lands the Education Centre resides, as well as, the surrounding nations of the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Coast Salish peoples and the urban Indigenous community.
"With the installation of these three poles we acknowledge the important role that indigenous culture plays in this District," says Suzanne Hoffman, Vancouver School District Superintendent. "They symbolize decolonizing the grounds of the Education Centre and act as a physical reminder to the District's commitment to truth and reconciliation."
The intent of the 44-foot reconciliation pole is to unite everyone - nə́c̓aʔmat ct - 'we are one', as we continue to learn and understand what reconciliation means in education. Placing the two welcome figures, one male and one female, recognizes the balance of both genders also reflects the District's commitment to equity and inclusion.
"I am humbled and honoured that the two welcome figures and reconciliation pole stand before the Education Centre, where the Board makes its decisions" says Janet Fraser, Vancouver School District Board Chair. "It is one of our priorities to increase our District's understanding of Indigenous culture as education is key to implementing the TRC recommendations."
During the carving process, over 1,500 students throughout the District visited the artists and learned about the carving process, the significance of the symbols on the poles, and the meaning behind the Truth and Reconciliation Commission : Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
"The three poles are more than artwork, they represent medicine for indigenous children; moving Indigenous education forward," says Chas Desjarlais, District Vice-Principal of Indigenous Education. "As an educator, I believe it is crucial that we pass down our knowledge and history to future generations so our stories and cultures lives on"
Artists chosen for this project represent the local nations Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh. The three poles represent the First peoples and their connection to the lands, their history and teachings. More information about each artist and the meaning behind their carving can be found at: govsb.ca/legacy.