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Grantmaking Story: Be the Bear - Celebrating the Greatness of Us

Grantmaking Story: Be the Bear - Celebrating the Greatness of Us

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Be the Bear Carving

In the true spirit of ‘celebrating the greatness of us,’ the West Vancouver Foundation helped to facilitate the community of funders of Caulfeild Elementary’s Welcome Figure. Funders of this project include Vancity, the Compelling Opportunities Fund at the West Vancouver Foundation, the Rotary Club, TEDxWestVancouverED, the Caulfeild Parent Community, and Caulfeild School.

The students and teachers at Caulfeild Elementary School have been intentionally creating deeper connections to Indigenous learning with the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Nation for a number of years. But it wasn’t until community partners came together this spring that Caulfeild School was able to join many other schools by commissioning an Indigenous carving for a welcome figure.

Through their Indigenous learning journey, the school community connected to ‘mexalh,’ which is the word for ‘black bear’ in the Skwxwú7mesh Language. Caulfield students became the ‘Caulfeild Bears.’ Students often say, “be the bear,” with an understanding of the shared values the bear has with their own families and with the beliefs of the Skwxwú7mesh Nation – beliefs and values such as tenacity, vulnerability, nurturing and perseverance. 

On April 17th, 2018, the bears of Caulfeild Elementary unveiled their welcome figure carved by the world-renowned carver, Xwalacktun. In order for Caulfeild School’s carving to be impactful, each child had an opportunity to participate in carving. The learning and inquiry throughout their classrooms was around the concept of harmony, and celebrating the greatness of us. Leading up to the Ceremony and Family Feast, members of the Skwxwú7mesh Nation led students in short activities to learn more about the ceremony and other aspects of the Skwxwú7mesh culture as they related to their carving.