From left: vice principal Brayden Gordon, Indigenous liaison worker Linda Rabideau and principal Lesley LaCouVee stand next to a welcome pole after its “awakening” ceremony, on Oct. 9 at Ecole Oceanside Elementary. (Photo submitted)

From left: vice principal Brayden Gordon, Indigenous liaison worker Linda Rabideau and principal Lesley LaCouVee stand next to a welcome pole after its “awakening” ceremony, on Oct. 9 at Ecole Oceanside Elementary. (Photo submitted)

Parksville school stages ‘awakening ceremony’ for 20-year-old welcome pole

‘It has to be purposeful and authentic’

Parksville’s Oceanside Elementary recently held an ‘awakening’ ceremony for the school’s welcome pole, carved by James Speck two decades ago.

On Oct. 9, Indigenous liaison worker Linda Rabideau led the school in a ceremony to recognize the purpose of the welcome pole. According to principal Lesley LaCouvee, the students were brought down in separated learning groups and as they came down, laid a cedar bough by the pole’s feet. With each group, Rabideau sang and explained to the students what the welcome pole was and what it meant.

Brayden Gordon, vice principal, said Rabideau had made a comment after the ceremony on how “it made her heart full to do this work with the kids.”

READ MORE: Two new welcome poles unveiled for the Qualicum First Nation’s Head Start program

“I felt quite blessed in the sense that I learned so much about her culture. And also about the welcome pole itself,” said LaCouvee.

LaCouvee, Rabideau and Rosie McLeod-Shannon, district principal of First Nations education, investigated the origins of the pole and found that it was originally given to the school in the 1999-2000 school year by carver James Speck. And in consultation with Rabideau, LaCouvee and Gordon decided the school should “awaken the pole” to recognize its purpose again.

McLeod-Shannon had been present for the original unveiling 20 years ago, and was also present at the ceremony this month. During the original unveiling, elders of the community and carver Speck were present at the school.

Since their research began, the school has since contacted Speck to seek his permission and assistance to help name the welcome pole, as it came nameless. Once Speck has had an opportunity to think on it, he will let the school know what he feels the name should be.

LaCouvee said they will mostly likely have a naming ceremony for the welcome pole as well.

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