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City of Burnaby unveils new public art by Tseleil-Waututh artist

City councillors, staff and dignitaries from the Tseleil-Waututh Nation attended the ceremony at Burnaby City Hall

Most of Burnaby’s city councillors and many staff members gathered with Tseleil-Waututh councillors and dignitaries for a public art ceremony at Burnaby City Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 1pm. The new artwork is a carving by artist Jonas Jones and will remain near the entrance of the main city hall building on 4949 Canada Way.

The ceremony started with traditional song and a brushing of the artwork with cedar leaves, after which the artist addressed the gathering and explained the meaning behind the artwork. “This piece depicts our first ancestors, the wolf that raised our people and our grandmother,” Jones said.

Speaking as acting mayor, Coun. Daniel Tetrault addressed the audience saying, “It’s not only beautiful, but symbolic. This piece was commissioned to honour the relationship between the city and the Tseleil Waututh Nation, as a marker for the civic and community space.” Tetrault went on to speak about the importance of creating relationships based on trust between the city and its Indigenous nations.

Burnaby city councillors with the artist and Tseleil-Waututh Nation elected councillors. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

Coun. Maita Santiago spoke about the significance of this work. “This artwork of Tseleil Waututh ancestors is indeed a testament to the continued shared commitment to truth and reconciliation. As we gather today on the unceded territories of the Tseleil-Waututh people, we acknowledge your profound connection to these lands, to your wisdom and to your enduring spirit,” Santiago said.

Charlene Aleck, elected councillor of the Tseleil-Waututh Nation, was also present at the ceremony. She spoke about the power of the artwork’s symbolism and meaning. “You have done an amazing job of holding that history and bringing it forward…May it be a remembrance for whoever comes by to see and read these words,” she said to Jones.

“We would never have dreamed of days like this happening, where our representation could be in the city hall, and the partnership that’s blossoming into something that is not only beneficial to the city of Burnaby, but to Tseleil-Waututh, Musqueam, Squamish, and to future generations,” Aleck added.

Artist Jonas Jones with his mother Cecily George. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

The artist’s mother, Cecily George was also present at the ceremony. She spoke about her sense of pride in seeing her son’s artwork in Burnaby City Hall. “This isn’t just artwork, it’s a connection to the spirit. It’s his healing, it’s his own healing that he’s putting into this art piece…He’s letting go of what he needs to heal, what he put into this work. So being here I’m so proud, that you all took the time out of your day to be here to honour my son, allowing him to let go of his art piece and letting it do its medicine and what it needs to do here in Burnaby,” George said.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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