media release

SFU unveils hand-carved Musqueam welcome figure to honour local First Nations territories

September 06, 2017

Gary George, Office for Aboriginal People’s Officer for Community Relations, 778.782.8925,
Wan Yee Lok, University Communications, 778.782.3210,
Justin Wong, University Communications,

Photos and b-roll:

Simon Fraser University hosted a traditional First Nations ceremony to unveil a new welcome figure at SFU Vancouver campus on Wednesday, Sept. 6.

The figure, carved by Musqueam artist Brent Sparrow, is intended to honour, and to create a stronger awareness of, the local Coast Salish territories on which SFU Vancouver is located: the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam. The welcome figure also serves to encourage the SFU community and its visitors to learn more about local First Nations culture and history.

The carving project supports the SFU Aboriginal Reconciliation Council’s (SFU-ARC) commitment to indigenize the University and to foster a welcoming environment for its indigenous students.

Last fall, SFU President Andrew Petter established SFU-ARC to facilitate and support broad discussions about how the University might address the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. SFU has since committed $9 million in University funding to advance reconciliation projects across the SFU community over the next three years.

Today, the figure stands permanently in the Harbour Centre foyer at the Vancouver campus to welcome everyone who visits the University. The artwork is titled Si’em, an honorific used to refer to elders, chiefs or speakers in Musqueam culture and other indigenous societies in B.C. and around the world. In Musqueam culture, a Si’em will welcome guests to the territory.

Sparrow created the welcome figure from a 225-year-old red cedar log grown in central Vancouver Island. Approximately 500 hours went into the finished figure, which weighs about 600 pounds. Standing 11 feet high and three feet wide at the campus entrance, it welcomes all who visit.

This project was made possible by Musqueam Nation, Musqueam carver Brent Sparrow, SFU Vancouver, The office for Aboriginal people’s, and many others who graciously assisted in making this venture possible.


SFU President Andrew Petter

“The valued relationships we enjoy with local First Nations are a vital part of SFU's mission to be Canada’s Engaged University,” says Petter. “This wonderful welcome figure celebrates those relationships while also advancing our commitment to honour the history, culture and presence of Aboriginal peoples.”

Gary George, SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples officer for community relations

"Canadian Indigenous symbolism, are most often represented through forms like button blankets, clothing, masks, songs, and totem pole carvings.  It is our culture, history, and tradition.  The welcoming figure will not only welcome people from all over the world, but it will help our First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students feel a ‘sense of place’ on campus."

Brent Sparrow, Musqueam artist

“The figure is adorned with traditional regalia - woven red cedar hat and hand carved nobility blanket. In Musqueam culture, these wool blankets serve many purposes and remain an important part of traditional and ceremonial life. They have traditionally been made for and by Si’em with men and women combining efforts to create them. The blanket and associated markings symbolize the wealth, power, and prestige of the wearer.”



As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement. SFU was founded more than 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is Canada’s leading comprehensive research university and is ranked one of the top universities in the world. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 35,000 students, and boasts more than 145,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

<p><a href="/content/sfu/sfunews/comment_guidelines.html?keepThis=true&amp;TB_iframe=true&amp;height=700&amp;width=700" class="thickbox">Comment Guidelines</a><br>