A new welcome post will now greet staff, students, and visitors to Maddaugh Elementary School.
Members of the school and community, along with artists and dignitaries, attended an unveiling ceremony in Clayton March 30.
“One of the main reasons is to welcome the Indigenous families in a way that is from their culture, their background, while respecting the local territory,” said Paula James in a press release on surreyschools.ca March 28.
James, the senior Indigenous district language and culture facilitator with the Surrey school district’s Indigenous Learning department, was speaking about nine new welcome posts that will be erected in district schools.
“This is a strong, beautiful culture and it’s important that even the visitors to our schools see that we are, as a district, taking part in acknowledging the territories of the Coast Salish people,” James added. “With each school, the welcome figure will be carved by a local artist out of a cedar log and will follow the protocols and ceremonies for unveiling at each school.”
The Surrey School District will unveil welcome posts at eight more schools before the end of the school year. All the posts are designed and carved by two Coast Salish artists with the intention of fostering a “more inclusive” environment for Indigenous students, parents and families.
In 2022, Surrey Schools reached out to Chehalis carver, Gary Leon and Kwantlen artist Brandon Gabriel in an effort to get welcome posts in several schools. Before the end of the school year, Surrey Schools plans to unveil posts at: Bothwell, Douglas, Edgewood, and Regent Road elementary schools, along with Fleetwood Park, Fraser Heights, Frank Hurt and Grandview Heights secondary schools.
Gabriel created the posts for both Fleetwood Park and Frank Hurt secondary schools, while Leon created the remaining seven posts.
In the release, James said the welcome posts are not just art, they hold historical significance.
“They are part of our customs, part of our way of life,” she said. “From the district’s point of view, we want to respect the territories we’re in and show that we want everyone to have a better understanding of First Nations culture.”
The post at Maddaugh is carved from one 24-foot, straight-grain old-growth yellow cedar. The posts for Douglas, Edgewood, and Regent Road will also be made from the yellow cedar, while the posts for the other schools will be made from red cedar. Each post will feature a unique design as they’ll be tailored for each school.
“It’ll be a celebration – it’s been a wonderful journey to have these welcome figures brought into our schools and having a local carver is an excellent opportunity for them and for us to learn from each other,” said James. “It’s going to add to their school atmosphere, having that welcoming at the entrance and adding to their sense of pride through a First Nations perspective.”