Living Library opens with blessing ceremony at Douglas Park Elementary

March 27, 2017

Students and staff witnessed the blessing of a Living Library at Douglas Park Elementary on March 9th, 2017. The celebration was alive with song and many expressions of thanks.

The Living Library project is called Sohl Temexw or ‘Sacred Land’ and will provide a valuable learning area for the students of Douglas Park Elementary. As part of the project, a student group called ‘Common Ground’ has been created. These students will be involved in the creation of the garden under the guidance of Teacher Lorraine Goulet, Kwantlen Cultural Presenter Karen Gabriel and other Aboriginal Department Staff.

Goulet and her Common Ground students began planning the Living Library in the courtyard of Douglas Park Elementary to re-connect students with the land. Plants for the garden will be chosen based on their significance to Aboriginal medicine and use and will all be native to the Fraser Valley region. Students will learn how to care for the plants, as well as all about their traditional uses by First Nations communities.

Art Starts, BC ARTS Council, and the Government of British Columbia Creative Futures Program granted the project $9575. As well, $5000 was contributed by the Langley School District.

To commemorate the opening of the garden, Kevin Kelly, speaking on behalf of Kwantlen Hereditary Chief Marilyn Gabriel, welcomed attendees with gratitude. Representatives from the Katzie First Nation were also present at the ceremony.

Karen Gabriel, Cultural Presenter for the District and a speaker at the ceremony, implored the children to take time to play outdoors, to explore nature. She discussed her love for plants, and how, since she was a child, she has tended and cared for her own gardens.

In addition to the blessing ceremony, Teacher Lorraine Goulet was honoured with a blanketing ceremony, recognizing her contribution to the project and her ongoing dedication to inspiring students to learn more about Aboriginal Peoples and culture.

During the celebration, it was announced that a Douglas Park student, donated family artifacts from his First Nation’s heritage to the library: a rattle and a drum stick.

After the school-wide assembly, Matsqui artist and Aboriginal Program Cultural Presenter Carman McKay led the Common Ground students to the courtyard. Handing them boughs of cedar, they dusted the walls, ground, air, and each other as an act of cleansing for the new space.

Common Ground students will be documenting the progress of the garden with photographs and a Common Ground blog on the school website, incorporating a literacy element to this ‘hands-on’ project.