Taking a more permanent approach to land acknowledgement, Surrey School District is commissioning territorial recognition plaques that will soon be installed in every public school in the district.
The Surrey Board of Education recently commissioned the plaques to recognize the Katzie, Kwantlen and Semiahmoo First Nations lands on which their students and staff members work and learn.
All elementary, secondary schools and learning centres in the district will have the plaques displayed at the entrances of the buildings in an effort to continue honouring the district’s commitment to reconciliation.
“We respectfully acknowledge that Surrey Schools reside on the traditional, unceded and shared territories of Coast Salish peoples,” reads each plaque.
“We highlight this history knowing that relationships and partnerships based on respect with the Indigenous peoples of this land is important for truth and reconciliation.”
This effort will make all Indigenous students and families feel welcome in Surrey schools, Lyn Daniels, director of instruction with Aboriginal learning, said in a news release issued Wednesday (June 15).
“When you walk into a public school, you can always count on seeing a Canadian flag and the flag of the province and a photo of the Queen,” she said, adding that what could not be found in schools was the recognition of Indigenous presence in North America.
Designer of the maple-wood plaques is Katzie artist Rain Pierre, whose previous art can be seen throughout schools in the Surrey district. Pierre, with production manager Kiefer Strautman and Dusty Yurkin, a graphic designer, produced 130 plaques.
Two hummingbirds flying with cedar bands wrapped around their heads are featured on the plaques. The birds represent Indigenous cultures and the people’s resilience in the face of attempted genocide.
The feathered creature was also chosen for its unique ability to fly backwards, symbolizing the uniqueness of Surrey schools, Pierre said, adding that two birds are shown to represent the district’s acknowledgement of the past and future, in hopes of furthering the process of reconciliation.
“I say it’s unique because it represents what the school district is going through, acknowledging our people and what happened and reflecting that it’s a unique district,” Pierre said.