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A two-and-a-half metre traditional Coast Salish welcome figure was unveiled today at Douglas College’s Coquitlam Campus. Titled “Salmon Woman Welcomes Salmon Home,” the figure was commissioned last year in commemoration of the College’s 50th anniversary and in recognition of the College’s location on traditional Coast Salish territory.

“’Salmon Woman Welcomes Salmon Home’ celebrates Douglas College’s five decades of providing higher education, and our setting on traditional Coast Salish territories – in particular the Kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) First Nation,” said Kathy Denton, President of Douglas College. “We are grateful for this opportunity to recognize Coast Salish culture in such a visible way on our campuses. And we are thankful to have the support of the Kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation.”

The College’s Coquitlam and New Westminster campuses are located on the unceded traditional lands of the Kʷikʷəƛ̓əm and qiqéyt (QayQayt) First Nations, respectively.  

“Salmon Woman Welcomes Salmon Home” was carved by West Coast Indigenous artist Gerry Sheena. The welcome figure features a woman holding a salmon, with her hand raised in a welcoming gesture. Both the salmon and the Coast Salish style of the carving are a proud reminder that the Coquitlam Campus lies on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Kʷikʷəƛ̓əm Nation.

“kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (pronounced kwee-kwuh-klum) in our traditional hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language means ‘Red Fish Up the River.’ Our name refers to a type of sockeye salmon that once flourished in the Coquitlam River prior to the 1900s and that sustained our people’s food staples for thousands of years. This carving serves as a symbol of our Nation’s close and enduring ties to these lands and waters and serves as a reminder that we are the First Peoples to have lived here,” said Ed Hall, Chief, kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation.

As a mainly self-taught carver, Sheena merges modern techniques with traditional Coast Salish methods. In over 30 years of carving, Sheena’s carvings have been exhibited and sold in galleries throughout B.C.

“It is a great honour to share my art and my culture through ‘Salmon Woman Welcomes Salmon Home,’” said Sheena. “In her arms is a salmon, reflecting how she welcomes the salmon home every year upon their return, much like students returning each year. She stands strong and proud, like the First Nations Peoples she represents, and she is the guardian of the land and the river of the Kʷikʷəƛ̓əm People.” 

Aly Hillaby, a Social Work student at Douglas College, says the welcome figure’s creation and installation is a “meaningful” statement about Douglas’s commitment to Indigenization.


 Unveiling of "Salmon Woman Welcomes Salmon Home" at Douglas College

left to right: Councillor John Peters (Kwikwetlem First Nation), President Kathy Denton (Douglas College), Chief Ed Hall
(Kwikwetlem First Nation), Gerry Sheena, Aly Hillaby (Douglas Students' Union), Councillor George Chaffee (Kwikwetlem First Nation). Photos by Jerald Walliser.          

 “The welcome figure is a vivid and thought-provoking work of art that instills a sense of pride and presence for Indigenous peoples,” said Hillaby, who is also the Indigenous Students’ Representative for the Douglas Students’ Union. “It serves as a marked reminder that we are on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples.”

 The welcome figure is located on the southeast lawn, near the flagpoles and the corner of Pinetree Way and Town Centre Boulevard. 

Douglas College is the largest degree-granting college in B.C., combining the academic foundations of a university and the employer-

ready skills of a college to graduate resilient global citizens who adapt, innovate and lead in a changing world.

For more information, visit douglascollege.ca.