On National Peoples Indigenous Day, the Vancouver School District will unveil its legacy carving project: one Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures at the Education Centre in honour of truth and reconciliation. In honour of this monumental event, we will be writing one feature story a day focusing on Indigenous education.
Our first story is about how the legacy carving project got started.
The legacy carving project started with a vision that turned into a dream and now it's a reality.
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, from 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 culture, 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 other's 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, as many 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.
"I was 100 per cent in agreement with the project and encourage Chas to move it forward. Within days the project was approved and a few months later the project is finished, and unprecedented amount of time to complete 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
Join us from 10am to 1pm on National Indigenous Peoples Day at the Education Centre (1580 W Broadway, Vancouver) to recognize Indigenous protocols and witness the unveiling of the 44-foot reconciliation pole, one male and one female welcome figure. You'll also get to enjoy performances by Indigenous drummers and singers.