Cedar Trees Donated to VIU for Totem Pole Project Receive Blessing

May 30, 2014 - 5:00am

Nanaimo-based Island Timberlands donated the three cedar trees to the totem pole carving project initiated by the VIU Students’ Union (VIUSU). The trees were delivered to VIU Friday, May 30, with carving set to begin June 16.

“Island Timberlands is pleased to be able to participate with VIU, the VIU Students’ Union, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, the Métis Association of BC, the City of Nanaimo, and master carvers from Kwakwaka’wakw, Ahousaht, and Snuneymuxw in the Shq’apthut project,” said Island Timberlands president Darshan Sihota, who attended the blessing ceremony with VIU representatives, carvers, Snuneymuxw community members and First Nations Elders.

As the first phase in the totem pole project, the three totems will grace the entrance of Shq’aphut, the Aboriginal Gathering Place at VIU. Future totems will be carved with similar donations of trees by Western Forest Products and TimberWest.

Over the summer and fall months, the three cedars will be carved into totems by George Hunt Jr. (Kwakwaka’wakw), Qwaya Sam (Ahousaht First Nation), Noel Brown (Snuneymuxw) and Thomas Jones (Snuneymuxw).

VIU President and Vice Chancellor Ralph Nilson, who was in attendance at the blessing, said he is impressed by the student-led initiative kicked off by VIUSU chairperson Sherry McCarthy, and by the generous donation by Island Timberlands.

“This project exemplifies the value VIU places on building strong, collaborative partnerships,” Nilson said. “We appreciate Island Timberlands’ support for this project and their valuable contribution.”

The totem pole project exemplifies the commitment and support VIU extends to Aboriginal students and their learning, Nilson added. “When they are raised, these totem poles will signify VIU’s strong, enduring ties to the First Nations people in our region, whose land makes it possible for us to learn, teach and gather on our campuses.”

Snuneymuxw Elder Geraldine Manson led the ceremony at a site south of Nanaimo in forest lands owned by Island Timberlands. In her blessing, and in songs by Elder Ray Peter and his sons Bubba and Clay, Manson said the cedars were honoured in the traditional way passed down through generations of First Nations people.

“Respect must be given to the cedar tree as it has given up its life,” she said. “A prayer along with a sacred song needs to be sung to the tree’s spirit for providing a great benefit to the people who are about to use it.”

This project is just one way VIU is working closely with forestry industry representatives based on Vancouver Island and in coastal BC. The University is also developing a Centre of Forestry Operations Resources in Education and Skills Training (FOREST) to coordinate existing training resources and provide a collaborative forum for development to address gaps. The centre will also provide a hub for applied research in forestry practices to enhance safety and productivity, which aligns with the skills education and training agenda. Other initiatives under consideration include developing a joint VIU/Industry/First Nations approach to forest resources stewardship and management.


About Island Timberlands:
Island Timberlands LP is a private timberlands business focused on growing and harvesting high quality timber and other forest products from coastal British Columbia for a broad customer base in the Pacific Rim region. Recognized as one of the best sources of high quality Douglas-fir, hemlock and cedar in North America, Island Timberlands manages the second largest private timberlands estate in British Columbia.

About Vancouver Island University:
Vancouver Island University is Canada’s west coast university. Known as a centre of excellence for teaching, learning and applied research, VIU offers a diverse range of master and undergraduate degrees, trades and applied technology training, and certificate and diploma programs to more than 17,000 students on campuses in Nanaimo, Powell River and Cowichan, and at the Parksville-Qualicum Centre. For more information visit www.viu.ca.

Shari Bishop Bowes, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University
P:250.740.6443 C: 250.618.1535 E: Communications@viu.ca T: @viunews

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