After two and a half years of carving, a First Nations house pole was blessed on Tuesday by the Katzie and Kwantlen at Garibaldi Secondary.
Garibaldi principal Grant Frend estimated that between 500 and 700 students at the school worked on the carving over the past two and a half years.
“I think it is a focal point... a reminder that we are on the traditional ground of the Katzie and Kwantlen,” Frend said.
Students were able to use carving tools under the direction of aboriginal education cultural worker Quentin Harris and First Nations 12 teacher Art Hagen.
Instead of learning from a textbook, students were “living and learning by doing,” Frend said.
The pole that was unveiled depicts scenes from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
At the top, there is a north star, the mythical thunderbird, and the Golden Ears Mountains – traditionally known by the First Nations as “Samaneth” where First Nations go to gather strength.
Below that are trees and the flat lands where First Nations used to wander. Then there is a chief sharing stories with children, which represents education. The river is below that with four rocks, white, black, red, and yellow that represent the nations on the earth. At the bottom of the pole, there is a bear that’s the guardian of the river, and a large tyee, the grandfather.
Xuuya, a Haida/Squamish carver who finished off the pole after it was started by Harris and Garibaldi students, has been carving for 48 years. He stopped counting how many poles he’s made after he reached a hundred and many of his poles – including large Haida totem poles – are on display around the world.
Through their art, First Nations record the history of their people, Xuuya said.
“Young ones need to know their identity,” he said.
The pole was blessed by Katzie members Dean Sam and Mavis Pierre.