First Nations history recognized in Oak Bay

Welcome panel at municipal hall adds Songhees flair to district

Artist Charles Elliott

Artist Charles Elliott

A large frame of First Nations cedar renderings now sits inside the entrance of Oak Bay municipal hall.

Mayor Nils Jensen, councillors, volunteers from the community and representatives from the Songhees celebrated the completion of eight First Nations cairns with the unveiling of a welcome panel June 16.

The First Nations artwork, done by artist Charles Elliott, consists of eight renderings representing the different monuments along the waterway, from Ogden Point to Cadboro Bay, honouring the Coast Salish history and heritage in Oak Bay.

The monuments represent the First Nations past and present connections to Oak Bay and the panel at municipal hall brings it all together.

“Every time someone comes in here and sees that plaque, that connectivity will be symbolized by this wonderful artwork … and it will be a constant reminder of the importance of First Nations to our heritage, to our history,” Jensen said.

“This is a wonderful and historic and a proud moment for Oak Bay.”

The project, launched by the Oak Bay Heritage Society and funded in part by the provincial government, has been eight years in the making.

Several of the monuments will also have native plant gardens, with plants donated by Marion Cumming and the Pacific Forestry Centre, surrounding them.

The artwork is a reminder of the thousands of years of First Nations culture and history in Oak Bay, and a reminder to express thanks to the Lekwungen people, said Cumming a member of the Oak Bay Heritage Society.

“Now that we are on (Lekwungen) land, it’s a way of spreading the knowledge and helping the generations to come to appreciate how we love this land. In a way we’re caretakers and guardians and stewards (of the land),” she said at the ceremony.

The “beautiful harmony” of the First Nations stories are shown in the cairns, Cumming added.

The monuments depict what happened on our shores many years ago, and include illustrations such as a seal, buck, otters, salmon and loon.

A plaque underneath the panel at the hall includes a map of where the eight cairns can be found.

Songhees Coun. Ron Sam called the unveiling a momentous occasion because, he said, First Nations sites in Oak Bay haven’t always been respected the way they should be.

“I think with the mayor and council grasping this and showing (the art) in municipal hall, where people come from this municipality, people will start to see that the municipality cares about it,” he said. “So maybe the people will start embracing it also.”

The recognition of First Nations heritage is important because it creates awareness for people and creates a link between First Nations and non-native people, Sam added.

Elliott said the recognition was a lovely gesture, but long overdue.

“I think it’s nice for them to do things like that because it shows that First Nations people used to live here,” Elliott said. “I appreciate that recognition for the First Nations.”

 

Elliott also has work displayed locally in the First People’s House at the University of Victoria, as well as in the healing room at the Royal Jubilee Hospital.