Saltspring Island Middle School has been given the unique opportunity and rare honour to help to carve a welcome pole in the Coast Salish tradition on our school grounds. Poles act as representations and embodiments of the thoughts and values of a previous people, place, and time. After it is completed, the pole will be raised at SIMS to forever be an acknowledgement of the rich traditions of the Coast Salish peoples, and a symbol of welcome to all visitors to our school.

Quentin Harris, First Nations carver, will oversee the project, with help from our students and staff. Saltspring Island community members will also be invited to help to carve the pole.

On Monday, March 14, Coast Salish elders performed a ceremony to begin the carving process. Ron George, or as he is known to his people, Tousilim, along with Jim Spencer, local elder, performed the ceremony. The purpose of the ceremony is to acknowledge that the cedar that was once a growing tree will be undergoing a transformation into a welcome pole. Through song and drumming Tousilim cleansed and blessed the pole. As well, the ceremony granted permission for the carvers to work on the pole and they were blessed as the keepers of the traditions of the Coast Salish people.

All of our students and staff were in attendance at the ceremony that took place on the future site of the pole carving- on a flat piece of land adjacent to the upper parking area. Student representatives from each class took part by helping to symbolically cleanse the pole by brushing it with cedar boughs.

We thank the Coast Salish peoples and the elders for granting us the right and honour of having the experience of carving this pole at SIMS.

Postscript: Work on the pole is scheduled for Thursdays and will be led by Quentin Harris

Keiko Taylor, Principal
Salt Spring Island Middle School

Check out the attached pictures for a visual display of the event.
(photos courtesy of David Borrowman)

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