Community Papers

Marriott welcoming totems taking shape

Earl Marriott instructor Michael MacKay-Dunn with students (left to right) Carrie Mogollon, Nelam Sall and Peace Arch Elementary Grade 7 students Hannah Hardisty and Cynnoma Selski check the progress of the secondary school’s welcoming totem carvings.  - Alex Browne photo
Earl Marriott instructor Michael MacKay-Dunn with students (left to right) Carrie Mogollon, Nelam Sall and Peace Arch Elementary Grade 7 students Hannah Hardisty and Cynnoma Selski check the progress of the secondary school’s welcoming totem carvings.
— image credit: Alex Browne photo

Semiahmoo First Nation carver Leonard Wells’ Kw’enalien Project – two welcoming totem figures rapidly taking shape at Earl Marriott Secondary –  is on track and due for formal installation at the school on March 4.

Aboriginal advocate teacher Michael MacKay-Dunn, school district youth workers and two Grade 7 students of First Nations heritage recently got a first-hand progress update on the project – a collaboration between the school, the Surrey school district and Semiahmoo First Nation, helped by private fundraising.

Hannah Hardisty and Cynnoma Selski, both of Peace Arch Elementary, one of the feeder schools for Marriott’s aboriginal student population – together with Nelam Sall, aboriginal child care worker at Peace Arch – were welcomed to the project by MacKay-Dunn and Marriott aboriginal youth worker Carrie Mogollon.

Both students said they were impressed by the scope and scale of the work which will depict both a male and female figure – a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the school, Surrey school district and Semiahmoo First Nation, helped by private fundraising.

“It’s really great art – so detailed,” said Hardisty.

“I’ve never seen this big an aboriginal work in White Rock. To see it installed and standing at the school will be pretty neat.”

“It makes me very happy to see the schools doing something about First Nations pride,” Selski said. adding she, too was surprised by the scope of the work.

“I’d like to come to the ceremony when it’s installed.”

Sall said she first saw the cedar poles, split from a single tree harvested in Squamish, when they were brought to the school in October.

“I saw them before anything was carved, and to see the progress in a few months is amazing – to think that one guy is doing this,” she said.

“Leonard is becoming a bit of a rock star at the school,” MacKay-Dunn said. “The students want him to stay.”

To date, the school has hosted more than 40 presentations on the Kw’enalien Project, he added.

“It’s all being documented and it’s going into a teaching module as part of this legacy project,” he said

Mogollon said the visit was among many that have been arranged with the aboriginal population’s four feeder schools, in addition to three outside schools and one learning centre.

“The connections that have been made are really powerful,” she said.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.