Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Joanne Charles unveils cedar poles to be carved by Leonard Wells.

Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Joanne Charles unveils cedar poles to be carved by Leonard Wells.

Totem project launched at Earl Marriott

Semiahmoo First Nation, school and school district collaborate on symbolic poles

It was a welcoming ceremony for two future symbols of welcome.

Monday, students, staff and dignitaries gathered outside Earl Marriott Secondary as two red cedar poles – split from a single tree felled in Squamish – were delivered to the school.

And they were called upon for the key ceremonial role of witness by Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Joanne Charles, who drummed and sang the poles into the school with other Semiahmoo singers, for what was described as the “historic” CEN’ALIEN Project.

In the hands of SFN carver Leonard Wells – himself a former Marriott student – the poles, which bear some preliminary marks, will be transformed into two totems, one male and one female, which will be on permanent display in the school’s entrance lobby.

In keeping with Marriott’s ‘Mariner’ theme, Charles said the male figure will be carrying the paddle of a traditional First Nations fisherman in Semiahmoo Bay.

The carving, to take place in the school’s inner courtyard, should be complete in time for EMS’s annual powwow in March, Wells told Peace Arch News.

“I was thinking it would take about four months, but it might be only three,” he said, noting that his initial work on the project only began at the beginning of September.

“Once I get going, I just don’t stop.”

“We’re very excited,” Charles said. “We’ve been talking about this for 20 years – we have some short-term goals and some long-term goals, and this is one we really wanted to work on with the school.”

Marriott principal Peter Johnston said the pole carving will be a learning experience for students and “a lasting legacy for the school.”

Aboriginal advocate teacher Michael McKay-Dunn said the project – a collaboration between the school, the school district and Semiahmoo First Nation, helped by private fundraising – is the first of its kind in a Surrey high school. He credited new aboriginal education district principal Gloria Raphael with helping to get it underway.

Raphael told the crowd that the project’s affirmation of aboriginal identity fits in well with the district’s newly-avowed focus for these students, 71 of whom currently attend EMS.

“We want First Nations students to graduate with dignity, purpose and options,” she said.

Surrey-White Rock MLA Gordon Hogg recalled that Semiahmoo First Nation’s commitment to education could be seen back as far as 1959, when the late Bernard Charles, later chief, became the first aboriginal president of a student council in Canada.

“It’s only through celebrating different cultures that we can learn to get along with each other,” he said.

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin noted the project’s appropriateness in the “year of reconciliation” between Canada’s First Nations and other populations.

“This school has made a huge success of overcoming the mess we made of it before,” he said.

Const. Troy Derrick, Surrey RCMP First Nations Policing officer, told students that bearing witness to the ceremony is an important part of a culture based on oral traditions.

“Some time, you’re going to be asked what it’s like to be a Canadian…this is what it’s all about. It’s going to stick with you guys, the younger generation – you witnessed it, you saw it.”


Just Posted

South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course – a 15-acre property that also includes a residence – has been sold. (Colliers Canada photo)
South Surrey’s Meridian Golf Course sold to new owners

Deal for popular par 3 course expected to close by end of the year

Gymnast Shallon Olsen. (Photo:
Olympics-bound Surrey gymnast Shallon Olsen enters sports hall of fame – in Coquitlam

She was the youngest member of Team Canada when she made her Olympic debut at Rio 2016

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum speaks at a press conference in August 2019 about provincial government approval of the city’s change to a municipal force, joined by councillors (from left) Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton and Doug Elford. Members of the National Police Federation claim there is still no transition plan in place although Surrey RCMP’s contract with the city is due to end March 31.(File photo)
Elections BC approves petition application for referendum on Surrey policing transition

Application was filed under Recall and Initiative Act by the widow of a Surrey murder victim

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (Screenshot from Sebastian Sajda YouTube video)
VIDEO: Surrey mayor unceremoniously cuts off 22 speakers during public hearing

Speakers plead with Doug McCallum not to be disconnected but mayor reminds them to stay on topic

The Penner family is fighting once again this year to have their son’s educational assistant hours increased, after the district determined it should be cut to 20 hours a week, from 22.5. Pictured are Shawn and Kathryn Penner (front), with their nine-year-old twins Micah and Lena, both of whom have heart conditions and are on the autism spectrum. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
This year is not a ‘benchmark’ as Surrey parents say support-worker hours cut once again

But the district says it’s forecasting a seven per cent increase

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Homicide investigators say the disappearance of a 33-year-old Burnaby man is linked to ongoing gang warfare in the Lower Mainland. (IHIT)
Disappearance of Burnaby man no accident, foul play suspected: IHIT

Parminder Paul Rai, 33, is known to police for his connection to drug and gang activity, says Sgt. Frank Jang

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Stock photo by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay
Drop-in vaccination clinics slated for construction workers in Lower Mainland

Sites in Abbosford, Burnaby and Vancouver holding no-appointment clinics in June and July

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver lawyer, has been suspended from practice for two months after admitting that his firm mismanaged $44,353.19 in client trust funds. (Acumen Law)
High-profile B.C. lawyer suspended over $44K in mismanaged client trust funds

Queen’s counsel Paul Doroshenko admits he failed to supervise his staff and find or report the shortages

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Ridge Meadows RCMP seized drugs, cash and guns from a house on Lougheed Highway and 221 Street. (Special to The News)
RCMP seize drugs, cash and guns from Maple Ridge house

Items were recovered after search warrant executed on Lougheed Highway home June 11

Most Read