Unveiling Ceremonies at the Newcomer Welcome Centre and Magee Secondary
“Carvers, they are our history keepers. They use Mother Earth to tell the story.”
-Morgan Guerin, Musqueam
During the past few weeks, two Musqueam house posts were unveiled in the District. The carving unveilings took place with students, staff, trustees and guests who gathered to hear the teachings and move forward in a better way.
Victor Guerin, Musqueam Knowledge Keeper, shared with the group at Magee Secondary that House Posts are often conflated with totem poles, “But there is a significant difference.” He explained that the images on totem poles are the ancestors of the clan, “Some come from wolf or raven,” he provides as examples. “But the Coast Salish are not a clan society,” he added proudly, “We are in a renaissance that began in the 1970s” of Musqueam art. A house post is at a family’s front door, and as Morgan Guerin shares with the group gathered at the Newcomer Welcome Centre, it “Reminds you of your importance in this world and to honour your teachings.” He shared a similar notion at Magee. “It’s like a bookmark that opens the heart of our grandma.”
The school board works closely with Musqueam artists to showcase their work, values and teachings throughout the District situated in their territory. The house posts and other works of art created hold great meaning to many, including school communities where the art lives, and for the artists and the Musqueam community. This meaning especially carries its weight because, “In Coast Salish society,” Victor Guerin said, “there is no such thing as art for art’s sake. Our art always has connection to our society.”
Sibling carvers Chrystal and Chris Sparrow worked with the Magee students and school staff at the school to create a house post representative the school community. The school shared that the word unity and orcas best expressed who they were. The carving features two orcas to symbolize the spirit of living together as a family and in friendship as well as black, red and turquoise circles. As Chrystal Sparrow explained, the colours are a “Representation of how the students and staff see the community of Magee school, black for kindness, red for community and turquoise for gender diversity.”
At the Newcomer Welcome Centre (NWC), Chris Sparrow created The Fisherman. NWC is where many families new to Canada begin getting settled into their school communities. Now at its entrance, all are welcomed by the large red cedar carving. Musqueam member Morgan Guerin spoke on behalf of Sparrow and shared with the unveiling ceremony witnesses the importance of the fisherman to Musqueam. “It is these ones who would go out to catch fish and feed our people.” A witness in the ceremony connected this shared experience with immigrating, because as the fisherman leaves home to sustain their people, a family leaves their home country to create a better life. The Fisherman also represents Musqueam values of stewardship. “Stewardship is one of the key things about who we are, you come from the earth, you belong to the earth,” he added.
The reconciliation work during both ceremonies had a profound impact on the educators who lead the sites, Dr. Andrew Schofield, principal at Magee Secondary reflected on the day. “We are custodians of your land and this land.” Bruce Garnett, district principal of NWC said, “we have a responsibility to pass this to future generations, I can’t think of something that’s more important for us to teach at VSB.”