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Coast Salish house post unveiled at Burnaby school board office

'This is going to stand here for generations to come' – a Coast Salish house post carved by Squamish Nation carver Xwalacktun Rick Harry now stands at the front entrance of the Burnaby school district's headquarters.

A Coast Salish house post was unveiled at the front entrance of the Burnaby school board office this week as a symbol of reconciliation and welcome.

Carved by master Squamish Nation carver Xwalacktun Rick Harry, the cedar pole was the product of months of work at Burnaby South Secondary and the BC School for the Deaf, where Xwalacktun worked with students and staff, sharing stories, teachings and culture.

In June, before the pole's trip to its permanent home at the school board office at 4054 Norfolk St., Xwalacktun led students and staff through a "waking ceremony" at Burnaby South, according to the school district.

The post was unveiled during Truth and Reconciliation Week on Tuesday in a ceremony led by Tsleil-Waututh Nation community members with members of other local First Nations

"This is going to stand here for generations to come," Tsnomot Brad Baker of the Squamish Nation said at the event. "It’s also our kids who are not with us yet today that will benefit from this beautiful marker of the First Nations people here, who have been here since time immemorial."

House posts were traditionally located inside or outside the houses of Coast Salish families, representing significant aspects of the families' history, stories and character.

The new post at the school board office "represents the house of education for the Burnaby school district," according to the school district website.

"This house post tells quite a few stories because it comes from the students," Xwalacktun said at the ceremony. "They would come and visit and share some thoughts around the ideas and what we can put on it to represent the school district."

Some elements featured on the pole include a butterfly with aluminum wings above two hands signing the word "butterfly" to represent the deaf community.

There is also a bear, representing strength and nurturing, and a school of salmon representing schools, the Burnaby board of education and the district.

Footprints and animal tracks, representing tracks we leave behind for others to follow, also adorn the post.

"We are grateful to Xwalacktun for the gift of this house post, to the members of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation for leading us in ceremony and to the elders who are sharing their teachings across the district," school board chair Bill Brassington said. "This incredible house post will stand as a symbol to everyone that the Burnaby School District acknowledges the Coast Salish land on which it stands and welcomes all who come to our schools and workplaces."