Board of Education holds House Post Honouring Ceremony
On June 21, 2022, the Abbotsford Board of Education hosted a House Post Honouring Ceremony at Semá:th First Nation longhouse to formally commemorate the carving of three house posts created for the Abbotsford School District. School Trustees, district staff, students and various community members were in attendance to witness the honouring, a traditional and meaningful ceremony in Stó:lō culture.
"Our school district has been on a journey of learning more about Indigenous culture and embracing our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation," said Dr. Stan Petersen, Chair of the Abbotsford Board of Education. "To visually profile this work and bring forward further Indigenous representation in our buildings, we commissioned these house posts to be carved and installed in the School Board Office this year. We're so pleased to finally see them come to life, celebrate the beautiful artwork of these pieces and honour their tradition."
Chris Silver, Councillor from Semá:th First Nation and a grade 11 student from Yale Secondary, Fraser Smith, opened the honouring with a welcome song. The speaker of the ceremony, Perry Smith, who currently serves as the Director of Curriculum for the Abbotsford School District, shared with the audience that he and the artists would be blanketed and have their heads wrapped with a headband to symbolize having a good heart and good thoughts during the event. Witnesses were then called to remember the event, and some were called to speak about the work taking place. Artists were then walked around the longhouse and directed to stand on cedar bows placed upon the ground to represent a place "where no one had stood before them".
Raphael Silver, the Semá:th First Nation artist behind the carving of the house posts, spoke to the audience about the process of this project and his long connection to the Abbotsford School District.
"I've been involved with the school district from a very young age," said Raphael. "The first piece of art I created was for Mountain Elementary, and I have painted several murals and multiple artist residencies with carving throughout the district ever since. When I was asked to do this, I did not hesitate. I appreciate what the district has done for Indigenous students. I've seen firsthand where the Indigenous Education department started... and where it is today."
The poles feature three carvings - a woman wearing a traditional embroidered dress, a man behind a shield, and a more prominent post featuring a female protecting the school district's children. The posts were inspired by the artist's mother and father, and Laura Smith, who served in the school district's first leadership role for Indigenous Education. Strong women have helped pave the way for many Indigenous students, and the artwork further represents the faith Laura has had in Raphael over the years. On the flagship piece, every etching within the wood meets together at some point and leads to the doorway at the bottom of the post.
"Education is the doorway to the future. It leads us on a positive path," said Raphael.
The House Posts are set to be installed at the School Board Office over the summer months. The female and male posts will stand next to each other in the Board room, on either side of the Abbotsford School District logo. The larger house post will be located in the front lobby of the School Board Office to greet everyone who enters the building.