Fraser-Cascade School District’s logo has been given a whole new indigenized look.
Though the formal undertaking to update the district’s logo didn’t start until about two years ago, according to school board chair Ron Johnstone, inspiration sparked quite some time before that – during the 2010-2011 school year.
“We were at Kent Elementary School, and Linda Kerr and I spotted a canoe hanging from the ceiling in the Indigenous Education room and it had some writing on it: Mekw > wat i:xel.”
“Mekw > wat i:xel” is a Halq’eméylem phrase meaning “everyone pulling together,” which is the motto of the district.
A few years later, Johnstone experimented with a new logo design to include a traditional Stó:lo canoe and brought the idea before the Indigenous Education Council in an effort to indigenize the logo’s design to better represent the 14 Indigenous communities in the district.
Coast Salish artist Bonny Graham-Reimer created the logo, and each detail has its own meaning or symbolism. The new logo incorporates the old with the focus on the mountains, water and trees in the region. The moon is embedded with “78”, and the reflection on the water is meant to represent forward thinking and the values of being a positive influence on the world.
The circle shape symbolizes courage and resembles many cycles in the natural world. A close look at the paddlers in the canoe notes some are wearing traditional Stó:lo hats while others have headbands. This is meant to represent women (hats) and men (headbands); the women are at the front of canoe to represent the matriarchal nature of Indigenous culture. Graham-Reimer said the elements of the original logo are still there – the tree, mountains and the water.
Trustee and Indigenous Education Council member Cathy Speth said the district wanted to commission an artist with a deep understanding of local history.
“I felt those components definitely had to stay in place, but I wanted to kind of approach them from a different angle,” she said. “I wanted to keep it so that it was mountainous. I wanted fresh, blue skies and I wanted the sacred cedar tree line.”
“(Bonny) did a wonderful job, and it really represents the theme of everyone pulling together and she developed a beautiful logo that we’re really excited about and really proud about,” Johnstone said. “It really reflects who we are in the district. I think it’s really a great collaboration.”
Graham-Reimer’s work has appeared throughout the Fraser Valley, including a public art piece at the Vedder Bridge roundabout in Chilliwack that honours the Ts’elxwéyeqw and Stó:lo history of the area. She was born and raised in Hope, attending school in Hope from kindergarten to graduation.
“I’m about as Hope as you get!” she said.
Superintendent Balan Moorthy hopes the school district will help provide better Indigenous representation in every community the district serves; Moorthy highlighted Hope specifically as an area still in need of more Indigenous artistic representation.
“If we’ve learned anything over the past couple of years and particularly in the last couple weeks, it’s just how much we need to take a look at our curriculum in Canada and in British Columbia and perhaps locally and just recognize the history of Indigenous people that have been erased,” Moorthy said. “I think we’re getting a deeper understanding now of the cultural genocide that took place in our country and that we need to reclaim who we are as a nation and who we are as a community.”
Nearly every school in the district has a welcoming post outside their doors, and just recently, Agassiz Elementary Secondary School unveiled a welcome banner at the entrance of the school.
“There’s a lot of indigenizing work being done in all of our schools on this side of the district as well as the Hope side,” Moorthy added.