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Event celebrates Totest Aleng: Indigenous Learning House in South Surrey

Grand opening held at Elgin Heritage Park Saturday (June 17)

The community celebrated the opening of Totest Aleng: Indigenous Learning House Saturday, June 17 at Elgin Heritage Park in South Surrey.

Featuring First Nation singing and dance performances, representatives of the Semiahmoo, Kwantlen, and Katzie First Nations attended the event, along with City of Surrey council members, local dignitaries, community members and visitors.

“It’s a very beautiful day to come together – we do a lot of really good work with our neighbours, Kwantlen and Katzie,” said Semiahmoo Chief Harley Chappell, who recalled how his elder would always encourage him to centre any gathering with song, at the opening.

“My elder would always tell us, whenever you gather the people, you need to make it a good place to be – to sit and to learn and (for people to) open their minds and their hearts. It will bring you here to this time and space… to be able to focus your mind focus your spirit, that’s a beautiful thing.”

As part of the event, Chappell shared the new formal name of the venue Totest Aleng, which translates to ‘learning house.’

READ ALSO: South Surrey Indigenous Learning House grand opening set for Saturday, June 17

“I am thrilled that we have been able to collaborate with the City to create this incredible new space,” Chappell said.

“It provides a much-needed space to support cultural practices, learning and dialogue in a meaningful way.”

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke also lauded the new venue.

“This new, vibrant space will create important opportunities for our community and visitors to learn more about Indigenous cultures,” s­­­­he said in a release.

“I’d like to thank the Semiahmoo, Kwantlen and Katzie First Nations for their collaboration on this important project. I look forward to welcoming visitors to this dynamic venue at Elgin Heritage Park this summer.”

The new facility provides dedicated space to support Indigenous cultural practices, including carving and other creative disciplines. Development of the venue and its programming has been informed by ongoing dialogue and consultation with Semiahmoo, Kwantlen and Katzie First Nations.

A unique venue, Totest Aleng includes a designated studio space, as well as an open-air pavilion to support additional programming and gathering. The programming model for the facility will include artists-in-residence, workshops, events, and school programs.

Along with speeches and opening remarks, the event included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, demonstrations, performances, site-wide activities, food vendors and an Indigenous artisan market.

- with files from Anna Burns


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Tricia Weel

About the Author: Tricia Weel

I’ve worked as a journalist in community newspapers from White Rock to Parksville and Qualicum Beach, to Abbotsford and Surrey.
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