On Monday, March 10, students gathered at Gibsons Elementary School to witness the arrival and blessing of a large cedar log that will become a totem pole adorning the front of their new school, set to open this September.
The log came from the "spirit of Mount Elphinstone," Gibsons Elementary School principal Deborah Luporini said, noting it was "a great honour for the school and wider community of Gibsons to be a part of the welcome pole ceremony."
The ceremony started after West Coast Log Homes delivered the special cedar log to the school grounds where select students helped brush the log with boughs in order to cleanse it and bless it for its new purpose.
Through singing, drumming and storytelling, carver Wes Nahanee (or chiaxten, his ancestral name that means "keeper of the law") explained to students their school sits on traditional Squamish Nation territory.
Principal of Aboriginal programs Kerry Mahlman said the students were "reminded about honour and ceremony and the Creator, which are all important together to ensure that the beautiful carving comes alive."
Nahanee said the pole will have special significance linked to the original people of the area.
"It's going to tell the story of Chekwa, which you may know as Chekwelp, and that's a village that was in Gibsons Landing at one time before it became Gibsons," Nahanee said.
"It's the story of two brothers, and I'll be sharing that story on the day of the blessing ceremony, when I'm finished."
He has started carving the totem pole beside the school where students can now observe his work at recess and lunchtime and when teachers bring them by.
"They'll be watching, and I'll be sharing stories and songs with them," Nahanee said.
He hopes to have the pole completed by the end of April.
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