Traditional unveiling ceremony highlights First Nations artistry

BC Hydro officially unveiled two Coast Salish Welcome Figures in early February, during a traditional ceremony with First Nations guests held at BC Hydro's Vancouver headquarters.

Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Blair Lekstrom, BC Hydro Chair Dan Doyle, executives and board members participated in the ceremony officiated by Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell and hosted by Acting President and CEO Bev Van Ruyven. Official ceremony witnesses included Minister Lekstrom; Dan Doyle; Chastity Davis,a BC Hydro Key Account Manager-in-Training and member of the Sliammon First Nation; and Clint Davis, an Inuk from Labrador.

Minister Lekstrom spoke at the ceremony and commented positively on the great work BC Hydro has done through its Power Smart programs and sustainability initiatives. He also commented on how thankful and proud he is regarding the ongoing work BC Hydro is doing to build strong long term relationships with First Nations communities throughout the province.

"This is a very exciting day for us at BC Hydro," said Bev van Ruyven. "The unveiling of these two Welcome Figures underlines BC Hydro's commitment to continue building long-term sustainable relationships with First Nations and Aboriginal people throughout B.C. These Welcome Figures will remain in our downtown lobby as a legacy piece for BC Hydro after the Games."

The Welcome Figures were designed and carved by George Hemeon, BC Hydro's Senior Procurement Advisor and member of the Squamish Nation, under the direction of lead carver Sean Hinton, a descendant of the Cherokee Nation. George and Sean unveiled the figures to the applause of guests and dignitaries.

With their outstretched arms, the carvings display a traditional Coast Salish symbol of welcome. Welcome Figures were traditionally erected outside the entrance of a Coast Salish community, signalling to visiting people, with their outstretched arms free of weapons, that they were welcome to enter as guests.

In the short-term, these figures will welcome the world into the province, the city and BC Hydro during the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Over the long-term, these figures underline BC Hydro's commitment to continue to build long-term and sustainable relationships with First Nations.

"These poles are a symbol of the strength and vows of the male and female coming together to bring harmony to the land and to each and every one of us," said Chief Ian Campbell. "I would like to thank BC Hydro for inviting us here today, for asking us to witness this event and for establishing a foundation of our collective history and First Nations culture."

Chief Campbell presided over a traditional Coast Salish unveiling ceremony that included prayers, the calling of Witnesses, blanketing, brushing of the posts with cedar boughs, song and dance.

"I feel very proud to work for BC Hydro as an Aboriginal woman," said Chastity Davis. "The Coast Salish Welcome Figures are a symbol of the bridges that are being built with First Nation communities in B.C."

Other notable unveiling ceremony guests included, BC Hydro Board member and Tsawwassen Chief Kim Baird; Squamish Chief Bill Williams; Tsleil-Waututh First Nation member and Four Host First Nations representative Leah George-Wilson; Tsleil-Waututh councillor Carleen Thomas and former Hupacasath Chief Judith Sayers.