Left to right: Alroy "Bucky" Baker, Stewart Gonzales, Jessica Johnson, Kyrel Baker-George, and Anjeanette Dawson
Wrapped in a teal and yellow coloured blanket adorned with First Nations motif, grade 7 student Kyrel Baker-George raises his hands to a silent yet celebratory crowd gathered at Lynnmour Elementary School.
"Huy chexw a," he says. The crowd immediately raises their hands and repeats his greeting of thanks – they have a very meaningful reason to be thankful.
The school is being gifted with the traditional Squamish Nation name X̱á7elcha. Pronounced "HA-ul-cha", X̱á7elcha is the Squamish name for Lynn Creek and the area Lynnmour Elementary School now resides on. The gifting of a name is a significant and special event in Coast Salish tradition. It signifies an important connection to the nation gifting the name and a mutual respect and appreciation.
Lynnmour Elementary School students dance in front of the sign unveiling their school's traditional Squamish language name.
"We are so incredibly honoured that the Squamish Nation has gifted our school this meaningful name. Our students, staff and parent community are excited and humbled by this invaluable gesture," said Kelly La Roue, Principal, Lynnmour Elementary School.
Over the years, the school has made efforts to teach all students about Aboriginal history and culture. Their efforts align with the North Vancouver School District's commitment to embed Aboriginal teachings into the curriculum and to follow the calls to action outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report. The education system will play a critical role in reconciliation and efforts made in local schools will support all students, including students of Aboriginal ancestry, to reach their full potential.
"Students benefit immensely from the work we are doing around Aboriginal history, culture and traditional ways of knowing. Not only are they learning the backbone of Canadian history, but they also learn broader skills such as critical thinking, communication, creativity, compassion and empathy," said Jessica Johnson, Aboriginal Success Teacher, North Vancouver School District.
To prepare for the naming event, every student and staff member in the school engaged in learning about local First Nations history, culture, beliefs and current areas of interest. Grades four and five students weaved the quarter bags to be used in the naming ceremony for witnesses. The grade seven students learned elements of North West Coast art and Squamish dances. All primary classes participated in local songs and dances.
The traditional naming event at the school took place on May 31, 2016. Led by Stewart Gonzales, the celebration involved blanketing student participants, offering tokens of appreciation to witnesses, a cedar brushing ceremony, drumming, song and dance. All students were involved in some way. Another special feature of the event was that George, who is not only a student at the school but also a Tsleil-Waututh Nation band member, was mentored by Gonzales to learn the local traditions of naming ceremonies.
Kyrel Baker-George and Stewart Gonzales
"This event was a really special moment to be part of and I'm certain it will remain with our students as a powerful learning moment," said Angela Meule, Vice-Principal, Lynnmour Elementary School. "It will definitely stick with me."