Courtenay Elementary School students celebrated the beginning of their aboriginal carving project on Tuesday. The school had a special ceremony led by Andy Everson to bless the logs that will be turned into the centerpieces of the school’s garden gate project.
All 185 students squeezed into the school’s outside covered area to watch as Andy Everson conducted the ceremonial blessing of the logs. This included singing, drumming, and brushing the logs with cedar boughs. The ceremony ended with the lead carver on the project, Karver Everson, joining his uncle in spreading eagle down feathers on the logs, which represent peace.
The entire project has been funded by a grant from Artstarts in Schools, a non-profit organization that aims to bring professional artists into BC schools. The logs were donated by Western Forest Products.
Grade 5 and 6 teacher Heidi Jungwirth, who is leading the project and originally put in the grant application, described the event as emotional and moving.
“Having all the kids watching intently as Andy’s chants echoed through the outdoor space made all the work we’ve been doing very worthwhile,” she said.
The students have all worked with John Powell to learn about K’omoks art styles and techniques and with school district staff to learn the story of Queneesh, and the totem that goes with it. Between now and June the younger students will be selecting and painting an animal, which will be displayed as part of the new gates for the school community garden. The older students will also be more directly involved in painting and finishing the poles being carved.
The school is planning to complete and unveil the entire project on June 22 as part of the community’s celebration of National Aboriginal Day. They are confident that this project will be an ongoing symbol of what is possible when the community comes together to support children.