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Ladysmith secondary welcome figure featured in upcoming documentary

Cedar Is Life will film along the west coast of B.C. to explore the cultural significance of cedar
Ladysmith Secondary School teachers William Taylor and Mandy ‘yutustanaat’ Jones were interviewed in front of the welcome figure as part of the documentary Cedar is Life. (Cole Schisler photo)

Ladysmith Secondary School’s nutsamuut syaays welcome figure and the journey surrounding the display will be featured in an upcoming documentary Cedar Is Life.

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The documentary is being produced by Harold Joe and Leslie Bland of Orca Cove Media, formerly known as Drama Camp Productions. Orca Cove Media also produced the documentary Tzouhalem, which tells the story of legendary Cowichan Chief Tzouhalem.

Bland said that they found out about the work at Ladysmith Secondary from former LSS student Isaiah Harris while filming Tzouhalem. That led to a connection with LSS teachers Mandy Jones and William Taylor who teach the Land and Language class at LSS.

Jones, whose traditional name is yutustanaat, which means “comes with a smile”, says she’s thrilled that the work is being featured in Cedar Is Life.

“It’s really important that we show our culture and our language. To have people like us come in to interview us and put us in a documentary — it feels good. Our main goal is to educate our children here, our staff here, and things like this are going to help us to do more of that. I’m very happy to be part of this,” yutustanaat said.

RELATED: LSS nutsamuut syaays project enters new phase with completion of foyer

She said that the cedar has brought gifts and blessings to LSS, and students receive healing from the cedar simply by being in its presence. yutustanaat thanked SD68 Trustee Bill Robinson, Elder Jerry Brown and Joan Brown for their contributions to the work.

Taylor and yutustanaat have worked together on their shared vision of integrating Coast Salish teachings into the school environment. Portions of the figure were carved in the LSS foyer, and students and staff were involved in cedar weaving work as part of the process.

RELATED: Marston’s Welcome Figure for Ladysmith Secondary hits ‘milestone’

The foyer at LSS features a Salish eagle welcome figure, four house beams that acknowledge LSS as a house of learning, two weaving looms made of cedar and a 12 by 13-foot cedar weave panel — all of which came from one 40 foot cedar log that was donated to LSS for the work.

“It’s a marvellous use of cedar to bring the community together,” Bland said. “It’s a really cool story of how this came to be at this school and the lobby design that was done. We’re very excited to include this story in the film.”

Cedar is Life will film in Tofino, Port Hardy, Alert Bay, parts of the Lower Mainland, Nisga’a territory, Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii to show the significance of cedar in First Nations along the west coast of British Columbia.

Filming began on June 12, 2021. Bland anticipates the film will be completed sometime in 2022 and will do a film festival run in the fall of 2022. The film will then have a theatrical release around February 2023 and be broadcast in March 2023.

Funding for the documentary was provided by Superchannel, CHEK TV, the Canada Media Fund and the Rogers Doc Fund.

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