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SFU honours local First Nations territories with hand-carved Welcome Figure

March 10, 2017
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By Justin Wong

On March 9, SFU hosted a traditional First Nations blessing ceremony to unveil a new Welcome Figure at SFU Burnaby Campus. The University community as well as other visitors will now be greeted by the figure whenever they arrive on campus.

The figure, carved by award-winning Squamish artist Jody Broomfield, is intended to honour and create a stronger awareness of the traditional Coast Salish territories on which SFU is located: the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam, and Kwikwetlem territories.

During the event, children from SFU’s Childcare Centre sang the Salish Anthem with Broomfield, while a member of one of the Coast Salish nations performed the traditional blessing ceremony.

In addition, Metro Vancouver residents as well as elders and members from the Squamish community and other First Nations were in attendance to witness the blessing ceremony.

“This type of ceremony goes back thousands of years,” says William Lindsay, director of SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples. “It's a mixture of history, tradition, culture and spirituality. These permeate all aspects of First Peoples' life, including ceremonies like this one, and ensure that historical events are passed on to future generations.”

Broomfield hand-carved the figure from a 350-year-old, 40-foot long red cedar log donated by the Squamish Nation. More than 300 hours went into the finished figure, which weighs about 2,500 pounds, stands 25 feet high and is three feet wide.

It is carved with traditional regalia—a cedar hat, a woven wool sash across the chest, and a cedar bark skirt, and has a canoe paddle facing upward, symbolizing a gesture of peace. Featured on the base are the Sea-to-Sky Guardians: the eagle, bear and killer whale.

Says Lindsay, “This project was made possible by Squamish carver Jody Broomfield, Squamish Nation’s Sqomish Forestry LP, SFU's Deans’ Council, the Vice President-Academic and Provost, the Office for Aboriginal Peoples, and numerous others who graciously assisted in making this project possible.”