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Wednesday, August 11, 2021 — The first house post to be erected in the ancestral homeland of kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation in 120 years was unveiled today at the Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (θəqiʔ ɫəwʔənəq leləm) at səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview.

This new house post is called səmiq̓ʷəʔelə kʷθə šxʷhəliʔ ("Spirit of the Great Blue Heron").

The kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation commissioned Indigenous artist Brandon Gabriel from the Kwantlen First Nation to carve this house post to tell our story of healing, hope and coming home.

“This move is a sign that the Nation is reconnecting with more of its core, unceded territory,” says kʷikʷəƛ̓əm Chief Ed Hall.  “When we stand this house post up, 600 years of history will be reawakened.  səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview has always been a place of transformation, and we welcome the opportunity to walk alongside our partners to help make this a place of healing once again.”

The house post was sculpted from a majestic 600-year-old red cedar tree — weighing a remarkable 4,000 pounds — that fell naturally in a storm from the Coquitlam River Watershed. 

Several months ago, Brandon spoke with youth and Elders from the Nation, as well as knowledge keepers from Brown & Oakes Archaeology, to hear their stories and learn about the history of kʷikʷəƛ̓əm people.  

 

These stories in turn shaped the intricate carvings of the house post. 

 

“Every element of the house post shares our history and culture and is a symbol of hope and healing for our people,” explains Chief Ed Hall.

 

The cedar log became a warrior, protecting the lands, people and water and healing the world with its powerful and ancient medicine. The warrior figure represents the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm people’s resilience and strength.

The feast bowl in the hands of the warrior figure contains the sockeye salmon for which kʷikʷəƛ̓əm is named ("Red Fish Up the River") and serves to represents a never-ending feast and spirtual offering to the land and the Red Fish Healing Centre. 

Other features to the house post include carvings of sea shells which serve as a reminder of our ties to səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview and a beautiful carving of a Great Blue Heron, which represents night protector spirits who guide ancestors when they travel and day hunters who provide for the community. 

“Our people have been here since before remembered time and the house post represents the spirit of the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm people returning to our ancestral lands of səmiq̓ʷəʔelə which lie at the core of our unceded territory," explains Ed Hall.

This sentiment of homecoming and resilience was echoed by the Elders who spoke at the event, sharing personal stories about their journey of healing from addiction and trauma, and reconnecting to the ancestral land.

 

Councillor George Chaffee also described the house post raising and dedication ceremony as a homecoming for his people.

“People will talk about the day that kʷikʷəƛ̓əm made their voice heard,” he said. “This is the beginning of that. We have a message for everyone today: We are home. This is what we do to show you that this is who we are. The people who are with us now are not dictating. They are listening. We walk together now," says George Chaffee.

Pre-colonization, kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation erected house posts as symbols of power to ward off invaders. They were also known to gift many house posts to a neighbouring community as an indication of solidarity and friendship.

The Red Fish Healing Centre was named to recognize the Nation’s relationship with the salmon that used to thrive in the Coquitlam River. The Red Fish Healing Centre is scheduled to open on October 12, 2021 and will provide treatment for people with complex mental health and/or substance use needs.

Photo Credit: Mario Bartel, Tri-City News

 

House Post Symbols

  1. Male Figure: Warrior protecting the land, people and water.
  2. Blue Herons: Night protector spirits who guide ancestors when they travel. Day hunters who provide for the community.
  3. Wolf Tunic: Clan Crest representing kinship between Kwantlen and Kwikwetlem.
  4. Bonnet with Feathers on the Warrior: Feathers represent the great families of Kwikwetlem. 
  5. Sea Shells: Represent the occupation, land usage and assertion of territory by the Kwikwetlem people since time immemorial. 
  6.  Feast Bowl with Salmon: Painted with tumeth, a sacred paint. To give a never-ending feast and spiritual offering to the land and the facility.