A traditional Sto:lo unveiling ceremony of an eagle mask was held on Thursday, April 14 at Agassiz Elementary Secondary School (AESS).
Cody Dool was the emcee for the event, in which principal Greg Lawley was presented with the eagle mask, carved by former student Jonas Jones. The eagle represents unity among the staff and students and is a very important symbol to the school.
Speakers from Sq’ewlets and Sts’ailes communities led the ceremony.
“All of our masks serve as teaching tools,” said Christine Seymour, district principal of Indigenous education of SD78. “A lot of them come with stories and they have the teachings of our ancestors and are used as reminders. For a student to share that with us means a lot.”
During the unveiling, there was a blanketing ceremony where the speakers and the student were given a traditional blanketed and headband.
“The blanket goes over their heart to remind them that they have to have a good heart for the work. And the headband reminds them to keep their thoughts good for the work,” Seymour said.
Sts’ailes drummers and dancers performed traditional songs. Speakers took the time to teach everyone about the proper traditional protocols of the culture.
Many aspects of the culture were explored, from the meaning of the blankets to the power of the music, to the teachings of respect and value that are important to the Sto:lo people.
The traditional ceremonies of Indigenous nations have an emphasis on passing information orally. Some students and staff of AESS got to hear about aspects of the culture for the first time.
The eagle mask will be displayed in the front of the school so that everyone who enters the building will be able to see the piece.
“It’s important for all of our students at our school to see their cultures represented at our school. It’s important for our kids to see that they have a place in our school,” Lawley said.