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Welcome pole at creates Aboriginal Understanding

First of 10 at schools in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows
Students at Edith McDermott elementary sit by the Welcome Pole unveiled at their school Tuesday morning.

The first of 10 welcome poles was unveiled Tuesday at Edith McDermott elementary for National Aboriginal Day.

The project took more than two years to complete, with the help of several hundred students spending class time and free time carving the pole.

“The goal was to create a greater sense of understanding of Aboriginal culture and history, and a greater sense of belonging to the school community,” said Doug Hoey, principal of Aboriginal education for School District 42.

“The other goal,” continued Hoey, “was to create a legacy for the students so that years from now they will bring their sons and daughters back to show them the pole that they carved when they were students here.”

The pole was designed by district cultural mentor and master carver Quinton Harris using ideas gathered from students, staff and parents from the school, as well as Katzie elders.

The four-metre-tall cedar pole will be placed on a platform overlooking the front foyer, to welcome anyone from the community into the school.

Five logs were donated to the school district by Blue Mountain Woodlot, each weighing 540 kilograms. They were cut in half lengthwise by Anderson Pacific Forest Products, then put in a kiln at Hammond Cedar for 28 days to dry. Students at Westview secondary welded together the stands for the finished poles.

Initially only three logs were placed at elementary schools in the district: one at Edith McDermott, in the west; one located centrally at Alouette elementary; and one in the east at Albion elementary.

Now the other seven logs have been placed for carving projects at other local schools.

Katzie Chief Jay Bailey, whose 10-year-old son attends Edith McDermott, was at the ceremony.

“It is definitely a celebration of Aboriginal culture,” he said. “It is the first pole being raised at our own kid’s school. It’s awesome.”

He hopes the welcome pole will inspire children to learn about First Nations culture and open the eyes of students to the talent of carving.

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