Sep 15, 2016

Vancouver, BC – The new Reconciliation Carving Series began this fall at Langara College in the most appropriate form: a feast. Opening a conversation with a feast is a well-known First Nations cultural tradition. It is a vehicle for participants to not only nourish oneself, but to get to know one another before embarking on the work of the day. Much in the same way, the Series aims to feed students’ minds through exploration, discussions, and art creation.

Originally conceived by the Aboriginal Initiatives Committee, and supported by Langara's senior leadership team, the series is a community-based collaboration between Langara’s Aboriginal Studies and Fine Arts programs. The series is comprised of two carving courses and an applied research course. Students have individual projects, but also work collaboratively on a group project to create two Coast Salish house panels that will be presented to Langara upon completion. The panels will honour the children of Indian residential schools and the murdered and missing women throughout Canada.

Langara’s Film Arts is also involved by documenting the full carving process from the poles to the doors, with possible interviews with the master carvers and elders. “It’s a first of its kind,” says Garwin Sanford, Coordinator for Film Arts. “What we considered reconciliation before was not working so we are trying something new, and finding that path together”.

In the applied research course, students explore the issues and awareness about intercultural reconciliation, transformative learning and make inquiries into what Native art means. "What is cultural appropriation? How does it fit into the culture? These are questions people ask all the time, which we are exploring together,” says acclaimed Coast Salish artist Aaron Nelson-Moody, a member of the Squamish Nation, who co-created the program with Justin Wilson, a member of the Heiltsuk Nation

The course is based on local Native-based art, but Nelson-Moody hopes that the course encourages students to explore their own art styles and culture: “A good way to get to know each other is to do some work together. While carving, there are lots of chances and time to get to know one another. We have a lot of shared history. This course is a chance for people to look into that.”

Justin Wilson, Coordinator for Aboriginal Studies agrees with the sentiment. He adds: “By applying an intercultural approach towards reconciliation, we get an opportunity to bring different narratives into the classroom in an authentic and participatory way. It is a beautiful blend of having community and academic scholars creating an artifact [the house panels] that best symbolizes transformation on our campus”.

The class is a mix of Native and non-Native students, a fact that Nelson-Moody and Wilson say is unique in BC. Nelson-Moody believes that this resonates with the discussions surrounding the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. “Lots of people want to take action to make things better. We are basing this course on Northwest woodcarving teachings and tools, but we are asking students to base their work from their own culture and background,“ says Nelson-Moody.

“I think it’s exciting," he adds. “There are no textbooks. Nothing has been written yet about how to teach this course, so Justin [Wilson] and I are talking to the community, elders to find the best way to do this.”

“It inspires ideas for anyone interested in incorporating reconciliation into their daily teaching or institutional practice. The words that have always rung true for me were said from Chief Robert Joseph, founder of Reconciliation Canada and special advisor to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission: ‘We’re all reconciling something as human beings’. His words inspire transformational learning, just as I hope this series will,” says Wilson.

The Reconciliation Carving Series has been highly anticipated by the Langara community. Langara was recently honoured with a Musqueam name, which means House of Teachings. The name was given by the Musqueam Nation in January 2016 as Langara is located on Musqueam traditional territory. 

The course takes place every Friday in Room A046. The college community is invited to come by to view the progress as it unfolds. 

About Langara
Located in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., Canada, Langara College provides University, Career, and Continuing Studies education to more than 21,000 students annually. With more than 1,700 courses and 130 programs, Langara’s expansive academic breadth and depth allows students of all ages, backgrounds, and life stages to choose their own educational path. Langara is also known as house of teachings, a name given to it by the Musqueam people on whose unceded traditional territory the College is located.

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Deborah So
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