By Tawla Jaad — The students of Gidgalang Kuuyas Naay welcomed the students of Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary, Agnus L. Mathers Elementary and members of the community to witness the raising of two totem poles at the entrance of their school on June 12. The ceremony started with a powerful Gaagiixid dance to clear the air, followed by Gidgalang Kuuyas Naay principal Deavlan Bradley, who welcomed everyone to the event. In his remarks Mr Bradley spoke to the importance of students learning about First Nations relations with Canada, as well as the school’s goal to create respectful and culturally aware citizens.
Angus Wilson, Superintendent of School District 50 reminded the 400-strong crowd of the importance of witnessing an event such as this and urged the crowd to always remember this day, because remembering it means it happened – that it’s real, he said.
The mastermind behind the pole project was Robert Vogstad who contributed his own finances to get the project going and secured other funding with the help Katie Borserio. The first pole to be raised at the entrance of the school was a Raven carved by Jimmy Jones and Jason Goetzinger. The second was an Eagle carved by Garner Moody. These two figures were chosen, as they are the two moieties of Haida culture.
Once raised the carvers danced around the poles to breathe life into them and the Sk’aadgaa Naay dance group wove through the crowd dancing and singing. Hereditary leaders then spoke to the significance of the event and Gitkinjuaas expressed his feelings of coming full circle; from attending residential school, to seeing these poles being raised at a school that integrates Haida culture into most of its curriculum.
As in the witnessing of most cultural events, gifts made by Gidgalang Kuuyas Naay shop students were presented to people who helped to make the pole project possible. Jaylene Shelford, a grade 11 student of Gidgalang Kuuyas Naay, beautifully sang Haida songs and guests were ushered inside to feast on halibut, salmon, berries, pie … and more! Lunch was served by teachers and included seafood and berries that were traditionally gathered by the Haida classes.
Lunch was served by teachers and included seafood and berries that were traditionally gathered by the Haida classes. There was singing and dancing through lunch, ending with gifts given to all witnesses.