A new Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation crosswalk will soon be installed in North Burnaby
Thanks to the work of a group of local elementary school students and a local Coast Salish artist.
A new Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation crosswalk will soon be installed in North Burnaby, thanks to the work of a group of local elementary school students and a local Coast Salish artist.
During the school year, the Grade 6/7 class at Westridge Elementary has been studying and investigating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action.
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The class focused particularly on Call #82, which calls on communities to “install a publicly accessible, highly
visible Residential Schools Monument[…] to honour Survivors and all the children who were lost to their families and communities.”
The students decided they wanted to create a crosswalk as a monument outside their school and got to work immediately. They successfully applied for and received a $750 grant for their project from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. The grant covers a small amount of the project’s cost—but that’s where the City of Burnaby has stepped in.
According to a staff report, the estimated cost to install the crosswalk is approximately $20,000, and the city says sufficient funding for the project is available in the 2022 engineering operating budget.
As for the location of the crosswalk, students worked with their school community to determine where it should be installed and decided on the area where Drummond’s Walk crosses Union Street, where it will replace an existing crosswalk.
“This location was chosen because it is widely used by the general community, and because it is near a wooded area which provides a refuge area for reflection and contemplation,” states the staff report.
City staff with the Burnaby Village Museum also connected the class with Atheana Picha, a Coast Salish artist from the Kwantlen First Nation to create a design for the crosswalk that appropriately reflects Call to Action #82.
Picha told the Beacon that Nicole Preissl, an Explorative Designer of Squamish and Sto:lo decent and the Indigenous education programmer at the Burnaby Village Museum, reached out to her about the project in late April.
Picha agreed to take it on and work with the students on the design process.
“And so I met with the students and I talked a little bit about Coast Salish art versus Northern style art and sort of what makes them distinct and how you can see the cultures reflected in the design language. And the students really loved that. They showed me their designs and ideas for this crosswalk,” Picha told the Beacon.
The process itself has come with a quick turnaround, which included a lot of back-and-forth with the city and the school. But overall, seeing how excited and enthusiastic the students were to be involved in the project was well worth it, noted Picha.
“I think that it’s really important to make sure that art is accessible for young voices to be listened to and highlighted and also celebrate Indigenous arts and culture, especially during this time.
Picha and the students have wrapped up the draft designs of the crosswalk, and she provided details of some key themes, motifs, and symbols that were incorporated into the artwork.
“[The crosswalk] was inspired by the sketches the students were doing. They wanted a figure on it, like an animal motif. There were some students that were incorporating eagle feathers, which I really liked. That’s fairly accessible, most cultures incorporate feathers into their regalia…,” she said.
Picha also decided on including a Thunderbird design on the crosswalk. “It’s two Thunderbirds sort of mirroring each other. And I wanted it to be something that can be seen no matter which way you’re crossing the street,” she said, adding that the birds are found in a lot of Coast Salish designs.
“The Thunderbird is like a supernatural being. So it kind of inherently, to me, reminds me of communication,” explained Picha. She noted that the symbol is also a personal reminder of “strength and resilience … and looking out for each other.”
A design reveal of the crosswalk is being planned for the third week of June so the class can celebrate its unveiling before graduating at the end of the school year.