On Thursday June 20, the community gathered in the Ladysmith Secondary School foyer to witness the unveiling of Stz’uminus First Nation carver John Marston‘s Welcoming Eagle. Carved from red cedar, the 20 foot tall carving is the centre piece of Nutumaat Syaays (working together as one) project. Long House Poles and a loom are already showcased in the foyer.
Elder Jerry Brown led prayer and blessing with cedar branches in a touchig ceremony. John Neil of Little Valley Restration who was one of the many businesses that supported the $90,000 project said afterward that being a part of the experience was “life-changing”.
The project started about 9 years ago. “All the work that we’ve done up to this point has been for for our youth, for the growth of our community, “ said Marston.
He recalled how in the beginning when he first came to the school there was no representation of Stz’uminus First nation in the form of artwork. Nutumaat Syaays is an important stepping stone for both of our nations.
Marston thanked everybody that’s been involved since the beginning of this work.
“I think that shows the dedication of our community and what we are willing to do for youth and ourselves to make our place better to live in.”
Stz’uminus First Nation Chief John Elliott thanked educators for making them feel welcome “Everyone needs to take a part in raising our children, to make sure that they are more successful than we were.”
Part of the success of this community, it’s a place of belonging…It’s about walking together. Elliott admired the eagle likening its “boldness and the soaring nature” to the community of Ladysmith.
Nanaimo-Cowichan MLA Doug Routley read a statement from BC Premiere John Horgan who called the Eagle an exceptional gift to the school of Ladysmith that not only will it serve to welcome students for years to come, it will also inspire students and community members to learn more about cultural practises.
Ladysmith Secondary School teacher Bill Taylor who has been a driving force behind the project presented Chief Elliot with a sister loom cut from the same tree as the Welcoming Eagle for Stz’uminus First Nation.
Nuysumaat continues. “We are still working together,” says Taylor who thanks “all who worked nutsumaat.” A cedar weave will be created in the fall.
Through this world-class cultural experience LSS has enriched our communities and empowered youth to embrace their separate cultures while walking together into a much brighter future for the whole community.