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Welcome Pole at L'École Cleveland Elementary Receives 2020 Heritage Award

April 23, 2021

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Left: Artist Latash Maurice Nahanee with Welcome Pole. Right: Traditional Coast Salish ceremony at L'École Cleveland Elemntary.

By MONOVA

​​The District of North Vancouver and the Community Heritage Advisory Committee has awarded the Welcome Pole at L’École Cleveland Elementary with a 2020 Heritage Award in the category “Compatible new design in a heritage context” recognizing the integration and recognition of Indigenous heritage and culture in the District.

Welcome Pole at L’École Cleveland Elementary was carved in the fall of 2016. The lead artist was Latash Maurice Nahanee, a member of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation and MONOVA’s Indigenous Policy and Practices Advisor. Latash and Carving Assistant Chris Fyfe worked on site at the L’École Cleveland Elementary School. All of the students and staff from Kindergarten to grade seven had the opportunity to help with the carving.

The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation is part of the Coast Salish cultural group. The Coast Salish traditional territory includes the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland, Southern Vancouver Island and northern Washington State. The Welcome Pole is a human figure that stands with its’ hands raised up in a gesture of welcome and friendship.

The Coast Salish is an oral culture. The Welcome Figure is meant to be an icon representing teachings and values important to the Coast Salish. Respect for oneself and for each other promotes peace and friendship among the people of the community. The Cleveland Welcome pole carries a Skippers paddle. This represents he is a leader. He is one who guides and nurtures the people.

Latash and Chris chose to carve the Welcome Pole from a red cedar tree that was harvested and donated by a family whose children were attending the school. They also chose to carve a Welcome Pole because the values represented by this sculpture ties in with the values of the Mission Statement of the school. L’Ecole Cleveland Elementary School mission is to provide an environment that fosters the emotional, social and physical well being and the intellectual development of all students. Cleveland School will promote a positive self concept, respect for self, respect for others, respect for the environment, fitness and health.

Latash began his visual art career in 1993. In 1995, he began a twenty year career teaching First Nations art and culture in public and private schools. He retired three years ago from working in public schools. Since then he has been a full time artist and art mentor, in addition to being a lifetime Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Cultural Practitioner. Learning from his Elders, he embraced their teachings and is a proud member of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation.

The 2020 Heritage Awards were presented on 12 April 2021 by District of North Vancouver Mayor and Council. Congratulations to Latash and the participating artists!