The unveiling of a new mini longhouse was celebrated with a public ceremony and feast at the Sechelt Indian Band’s (SIB) mom-ay-mon Child Development
Centre March 11.
The 6m x 6m x 3m red cedar longhouse was built and adorned with Coast Salish artwork by SIB artist Shain Jackson, and funded by a $20,000 grant from the First Nations Early Childhood Development Council.
“This project has been a dream of ours for a very long time as we seek to incorporate Sechelt Nation culture into our programming,” said Sonya Swift, manager of the mon-ay-mon Child Development Centre. “We are going to be using the longhouse to sing and dance, tell stories, to feast and to draw. We’re going to be using it as an outdoor house of learning.”
Jackson explained the reasoning behind the artwork he created on the front of the mini longhouse-- — a First Nations wolf, frog, bear and eagle.
“When you look at Coast Salish artwork you have to understand that our history, our culture and even our law are codified into the artwork. It’s not simple, it’s very sophisticated and there’s so much meaning in everything,” Jackson said, noting the symbols represent the four clans that make up the Sechelt Nation. “Four in Coast Salish culture is also a sacred number. It represents so many things, the four seasons, it represents the four stages of life (infant, youth, adult, elder). It represents most of all the four directions and the four peoples that come from the different directions (the yellow people, the black people, the red people, the white people) and it represents unity within diversity — all of us coming together — and that’s what I’d like this longhouse to represent, all of us coming together, all of us learning from each other.”
Chief Garry Feschuk was pleased children would have a traditional longhouse space to learn in.
“This building is now going to be a house of learning for our kids, our menas, and when they go in there, the elders or the resource people can go in there and hand down the stories now of our ancestors, the teachings that need to be told to them so that when they move on in our community they’ll be able to stand up and know where they came from and where they’re going and how they’re going to carry themselves,” he said.
He said the mini longhouse at the child development centre would be the first of many to be erected as part of an “assertion strategy” on Sechelt Nation lands.
“These can be built throughout our First Nations territory to mark our territory to show that this territory belongs to us,” Feschuk said. “We have 2,200 square miles of territory and we believe all that land still belongs to us and we’re now going to be using these markings in our territory to show the government, show everybody that we do have a strong presence and a strong culture and a strong history in our territory, and those teachings and those areas have to be marked to show them that we were here for thousands of years and we’re going to be here for years to come.”