Elder Gwen Point recently performed a brushing ceremony on a Coast Salish whirl carved by artist Ray Silver at Foundry Abbotsford.
The artwork was installed Oct. 22 in honour of the Sumas and Matsqui First Nations of the Sto:ló people.
“This carving is a beautiful symbol of collaboration, relationships, and supportive community that is the core of Foundry and Archway Community Services,” said Emily Jane Henry, a member of the Ochapowace Cree Nation and board member at Archway Community Services, who emceed the event.
Foundry is a youth and health wellness centre that houses 14 different services under one roof to provide integrated care.
Foundry provided services to more than 1,600 youth in its first year of operation, and 10 per cent of them were Indigenous youth.
Silver, a member of the Sumas First Nation, shared how he let the red wood cedar “speak” to him, allowing it to guide the design.
Included in the carving is a thunderbird, recognized as one of the strongest beings on the West Coast, and an eagle as a symbol of peace.
The cedar brushing ceremony was held to awaken the artwork. The West Coast nations recognize cedar as sacred medicine, and branches are used as “helpers” for their purifying and healing qualities.
Point, a member of the Skowkale First Nation, is the University of the Fraser Valley chancellor and previously worked in all levels of education. She has been recognized with several awards, including being named an honorary witness by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2012.
The ceremony was witnessed by Chief James Hobart of the Spuzzum First Nation; Leo Nolin, a Métis elder of St. Boniface in Manitoba; and Rod Santiago, executive director of Archway.
Witnesses shared their reflections on the ceremony and will share their experience with their communities.
Chief Alice Mckay and council member Brenda Morgan of the Matsqui Nation were in attendance along with Eric Van Egmond, the director of operations for the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
As directed by Point, the Foundry will appoint two people to regularly replace the cedar placed around the artwork, as a way to help continue to hold the positive space created by the cedar brushing ceremony.
The Foundry will also regularly host Indigenous activities. The Foundry central office is also piloting a virtual clinic so youth who face transportation barriers can still access support.