Gleneagles Ch’axáý was the site of a formal Squamish Nation Cedar Blessing Ceremony this past Monday January 30th.
Among the dignitaries on hand, The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mr. Mike Morrison, North Shore Members of Legislative Assembly, as well as representatives of the West Vancouver Police Department and West Vancouver Schools. The group gathered with GEC students on a crisp winter’s morning to witness a Squamish Nation traditional blessing ceremony of Ch’ich’iyúy, a 29-foot canoe, and a cleansing ceremony of Hiyi Ulanch, (‘Big Orange’) a repurposed F-350 Pick Up from the Proceeds of Crime Unit.
However, Monday’s event was much more than an opportunity to recognize a canoe and the unveiling of a new support vehicle, but instead was a time to celebrate the learning and connection to our Squamish Nation friends and colleagues. In a time of recent international angst caused by ‘Executive Orders’ pertaining to differences and intolerance; coupled with recent violence in Quebec targeting religious minorities; Gleneagles Ch’axay students were instead inspired and enriched in our respect and understanding for traditional Squamish Nation protocols, stories and beliefs. These experiences only serve to build stronger and more genuine connections, community and reconciliation rather than divide.
This event was especially significant to the student body Gleneagles Ch’axáý as the school is in the midst of a School Wide Inquiry based on the First Peoples Principles of Learning and a related theme based upon the ‘Power of Story’; a literacy and fine arts infused focus fuelled further by the newly revised B.C. Curriculum.
With the organizational support of West Vancouver Police Constable and Spokesperson Jeff Palmer and Youth Liaison Constable Jeff Wood, who worked closely with school administration to organize Monday’s event, representatives of the Squamish Nation shared their powerful and poignant stories with the students and public who assembled on the Gleneagles Ch’axay front garden to witness the event. Both Sah7plek, Mr. Bob Baker, and Chiaxstin, Mr. Wes Nahanee, led the cedar blessing ceremony along with assistance from other members of the Eagle Song Dancers, as well as 9 lucky Gleneagles Ch’axay students, who took part in the cedar brushing, as traditional quarter bearers and as a cleansing water bearer.
The morning began with an opening assembly led by Constable Wood, Mr. Campbell and Sah7plek; sharing the story of Ch’ich’iyuy, its background, tradition and the symbolism behind the Sleep Ceremony and Cedar Blessing. The name of the canoe denotes the story of twin high-born Squamish sisters who brought peace to the Squamish and Haida people during a time of instability. Ch’ich’iyuy is a 29 foot canoe used in the Pulling Together initiative during the summer months, a youth outreach effort to enhance understanding between local police organizations and aboriginal peoples by “canoeing the traditional highway.”
Students then joined community members and assembled dignitaries including Minister Morrison, Provincial MLA Ralph Sultan, MLA Jordan Sturdy, WVPD Chief Len Goerke, Staff Sgt Lindsey Houghton of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit & Organized Crime Agency as well as West Vancouver School Board Chair Carolyn Broady and Superintendent Chris Kennedy as members of the Squamish Nation helped 9 Gleneagles-Ch’axáý students conduct traditional ceremonies to spiritually cleanse the truck (Hiyi Ulanch) and to put the canoe Ch’ich’iyuy at rest for the season. The significance of Big Orange, is that the vehicle was recently forfeited by a convicted drug trafficker and is now being repurposed, and further supporting police outreach to North Shore First Nations & Youth. Big Orange (Hiyi Ulanch), once cleansed will act as a support vehicle for the WVPD Ch’ich’iyuy Canoe Program.
We are grateful to all that joined us, especially Sah7plek and Chaixstin and the Eagle Song Dancers . It was further illustration to our community connections and the importance of a willingness to be open minded, celebratory of our differences, and cohesive in our efforts to preserve and protect the teachings of Canada’s First Peoples.