Students and staff of Oaklands Elementary began the Legacy Totem Pole Project in 2018 alongside Carey Newman (Hayalthkin’geme), Indigenous artist, master carver and filmmaker.
The project aimed to bring young students closer to Indigenous culture through their hands-on contributions to the meaningful art project. The totem also reflects the importance of community engagement through art and education as the process of reconciliation continues in Canada.
“At the core of it, this project is about changing our relationships with each other and changing our relationships with the land,” said Newman at a unveiling ceremony for the finished work Thursday (May 27) outside the school.
|A collaborative totem project led by artist Carey Newman stands finished at Oaklands Elementary School in Victoria. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)|
He remarked that everyone involved in the project demonstrated huge commitment to Indigenous learning while bringing these important conversations into childhood education.
“To see Indigenous culture being worked into the classroom, to see the way that the kids embrace it, I think about how their relationship is going to be with reconciliation. When they’re the leaders of the future, what does reconciliation look like?” he said.
Animals on the totem pole were chosen by the students, and each had the opportunity to imprint their hands on a colourful mural to signify their deep-rooted part in the project.
“Now that this is here, the story of it can be retold,” Newman said.
He and his team are putting together a toolkit to encourage other artists to go into schools and conduct similar projects with students. Newman is also directing a documentary to inspire other schools around the city, province and country to host similar projects.
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