It’s been over a year since John Marston’s nutsamuut syaays welcome figure was installed in the foyer of Ladysmith Secondary School, and on Dec. 23, 2020, Marston and volunteers put the finishing touches on the project.
LSS students from the Land and Language class, led by Marston, created a 12 foot by 13 foot cedar weave in the foyer. That weave was hung high on a wall in the LSS foyer. The hanging of the weave marks the completion of the nutsamuut syaays display — nutsamuut syaays means “working together as one” in hul’q’umi’num’.
“We had a day where all the kids in the class wove the cedar together,” Marston said. “To put the weave together took a day, but there a was a lot of process to get all the materials ready.”
The cedar used in the weave came from the same 40 foot old growth cedar tree that was used to create the eagle welcome figure, and four big house beams that mark LSS as a house of education. Marston said making the weave with students was plenty of fun, and that he feels honoured to have shared the experience with them.
“The kids are so great. That’s why we keep doing the projects that we’re doing here in Ladysmith — to help bring awareness to our Coast Salish nation, our artwork, our way of life, and our culture.”
Now that work in the foyer has been completed, a new project is on the horizon. The next intiative is to build an outdoor cultural space that serves as a classroom, an elders teaching space, as well as a meeting and artists space at LSS.
“We’ve been really fortunate with the partnerships that we’ve created with this project here,” Marston said. “We’re just in the preliminary planning period, and the classroom will be used for the Land and Language program.”
LSS teacher William Taylor, who teaches theatre and co-teaches the Land and Language program with Mandy Jones, said that the outdoor classroom is exactly what LSS needs to teach students in a traditional way.
“That’s been the dream of my teaching partner, yutustanaat — Mandy Jones,” Taylor said. “She says that when you’re working in the right way, the gifts come. And we’re so rich in these gifts.”
Duck Paterson, who has been involved in the nutsamuut syaays project since the beginning, said that Fortis BC has come forward with a $100,000 commitment for the outdoor classroom space.
The project is estimated to cost over $200,000, but there is no finalized budget for the project at this stage.
“Hopefully it will become a cultural meeting area for the Stz’uminus community and the Ladysmith community to get into more partnerships on community stuff,” Paterson said.
The design of the building will allow it to be used in all weather conditions, and will likely feature movable walls.
“It’s going to be like the welcome figure in here, you won’t find this in any other school any where,” Paterson said.
Martson said that the new project is important for the youth of Ladysmith and Stz’uminus, and will give them a different way of looking at life.
“It opens their eyes to the cultures within our communities, and cultures around the world. I think this is really important work that we’re all doing.”