Nov. 22 is Sno’uyutth Day in Oak Bay.
The name means “spreading good energy” which was the goal of the groups, individuals and organizations that came together to raise the welcome pole at Oak Bay High.
“For me and for our community it’s a celebration pole,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “This was a grassroots movement by residents here in Oak Bay; it didn’t come from council. Once it got going council supported it in every way we could.”
Jensen proclaimed the day as the exact one-year anniversary the welcome pole went up because Sno’uyutth provides an important recognition of the history, future and traditions of the Songhees and Esquimalt people, and promotes understanding between the communities.
“It’s so important to this community, to this school to have this symbol here,” Jensen said. “it’s a symbol of ongoing respect and reconciliation. l’m very happy this grassroots movement started and so many people volunteered their time and efforts.”
The day celebrates the public ceremony to mark the commitment to a revitalized and collaborative relationship among Oak Bay community residents, the municipality itself, Greater Victoria School District and the Songhees and Esquimalt nations whose traditional territory includes Oak Bay.
In spring 2014, CAOB commissioned Songhees master carver Butch Dick to design a pole to adorn the new Oak Bay High. School District No. 61 agreed to the gift, and to provide ongoing maintenance. The Rotary Club of Oak Bay originally helped issuing tax receipts but wound up heavily involved in fundraising for the project that saw the community raise more than $88,500.
“The difference it’s made in our school, to our school community, to First Nations students in our school has been profound,” said Dave Thomson, Oak Bay High principal. “We see a sense of pride. We see a sense of ownership … of recognition. They see this as being an indication of the kinds of things all of Canada is trying to do around truth and reconciliation. There’s a feeling that we’re finally starting to get it right and acknowledging the things we didn’t do properly in the past.”
Thomson feels fortunate to have a community that supported, funded and created such an important piece for their school, citing in particular CAOB members and project leaders Gail Price-Douglas and Joseph Blake
“It’s outside of the wherewithal of most schools to be able to do this,” Thomson said. “I owe them a debut of gratitude for making this happen for us. It’s an extraordinary thing to have.”
The spreading of good energy continues as the Rotary Club of Oak Bay Foundation now maintains and issues a Sno’uyutth Legacy Scholarship, handed out for the first time this fall.