Carver Brandon Gabriel wept as his two house posts were unveiled at the newly built Education and Learning Centre in Coquitlam on Tuesday (Aug. 30).
It was the first time the Kwantlen First Nation member had seen the posts raised for the School District 43 (SD43) project that's aimed to welcome students to the complex.
"For me, it's emotional because my kids are here," Gabriel told the crowd gathered in the lobby at the $32-million building that opened this month.
Called Stemiye, the house posts flanking the reception desk tell the story of transition.
Gabriel, who has familial ties with the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) First Nation and has house posts at Noons Creek Hatchery and səmiq̓wəʔelə/Riverview Lands, said when he won the SD43 commission, "the most important thing that had to be done with it is the story. The story is the most important aspect of the work."
The house posts are meant to welcome back students who didn’t graduate high school, but are wanting another try.
"The further we move on our life journey, the harder it is to come back," Gabriel added.
The two posts have the same elements: A human figure at the top, representing the student and learning community, and a thunderbird at the base, to signal a new path and remove barriers.
And both posts are painted with colours from the Progress Pride Flag, which is said to be a first-of-its-kind feature for a house post in B.C.
The colours are the following:
- pink for sex
- red for life
- orange for healing
- yellow for sunlight
- green for nature
- turquoise for magic
- indigo for serenity
- violet for spirit
The colours are meant to represent inclusivity, Gabriel said.
"I think we knocked this out of the park, if I do say so myself," he quipped.
Kwikwetlem Coun. John Peters, whose relative blessed Coquitlam’s Centennial house post in 1967, said Gabriel’s artwork is a symbol for future leaders while relaying the First Nation history.
Peters offered blessings before the posts were "awakened" and dusted with cedar branches to "clear the fog" and move the latent energy of the wood, Gabriel said.
Gabriel’s father, whose Indigenous name is Lekeyten (Keeper of the Posts), also offered thanks and song to KFN and school district officials at the ceremony.