Guest blogger Brian Nikula, Principal of the Bowser School shares his thoughts on an exciting community project…

The commitment of so many of the Bowser School community, to build our outdoor Cultural Learning Space, came to fruition in the form of the completion of our first stage (the fireside sitting area).  An amazing day was shared with our friends from Kwalikum Secondary, local First Nations, and dignitaries. Dedication to commemorate the opening of the area was the focus of the day, but it was also truly the way of those involved in the process of the project. Staff, flexible with time resources and skills; students, with creative ideas and helping hands; local and district First Nations with support, insight, and guidance; trustees and district staff with support and direction in dotting I’s crossing T’s, all had important roles.

We thank Mrs. Bonnor for her vision and maintaining momentum in the endeavor.  Holding fast to a priority for being inclusive, respectful, and all the while student centered, assistance in the form of money, materials, labour and good thoughts swelled as the spring unfolded. In the late fall, a day was planned along with KSS, whose students and staff  would join us in our festivities to take place on May 25th, during Aboriginal awareness week.


The day began  with our dedication ceremony where Chief  Michael Recalma welcomed everyone to the traditional territory and opened our new space through a cedar ribbon cutting. In what was a very moving moment for all in attendance, Carrie Reid, District First Nations, Inuit and Metis resource teacher, drummed and sang a beautiful welcome song in Hulqaminum, along with our students (thanks to Colleen Manson for all her tutelage). Mrs. Bonnor then spoke to the project and its genesis, and outdoor pursuits teacher Mr. MacVicar spoke to the contributions of our students in the space’s construction.

After the ceremony, it was time to break bread. Salmon cooked on the fire in a traditional manner by Bill Recalma was a highlight of the day, as was bannock for 300 🙂 prepared by Donna Kennedy. Rounding out the menu, KSS contributed hot dogs, potato salad, fruits and veggies, which were graciously served by our PAC. Thanks also to the kind folks from the Deep Bay VFD who supervised the fire starting early in the morning.

Following lunch, we broke up into our traditional activity groups for some fun shared with our big buddies from the high school. “Bigs” and “Littles” had already connected during lunch as a soccer game involving K’s through grade 11’s found its way once students completed their meals.

Mrs. Mathison’s Grade 11 art students shared traditional clay loom building with the students in Mrs. Hagarty’s, Mrs. Bonnor’s/Mrs McClinton’s, and Mrs .Buller’s classes. The activity was hugely engaging, and the finished products were exquisite.

Button blankets were made by Mr. Rockhill’s, Mr. MacVicar’s and Ms. Bollen’s classes, under the direction of our First Nations Liaison, Carmen Forest, and other district first Nations staff.
We want to thank the many local businesses and supporters of the project: TD friends of the enviroment, VIU student teachers, Steve Marshall Excavating, Chinook Forest Products, Lafarge Holciium, Errington Cedar, Bowser Builders Supply, Bowser Business Association, Streamside Native plants, Quality foods, Thrifty’s, Buckerfields, and Home Building Centre, for all their kind contributions, as well as area H director, Bill Veenhoff, for his presence and support, Trustee Barry Kurland for his unwavering support and steady camera hand, and Ms. Marshall, the KSS principal, for all her help in making the day a great success.

As our project is well placed as locally representative, responsive to new curriculum, and respectful of  reconciliation awareness, we look forward to the educational opportunities to take place within.   We are also looking forward to the upcoming school year and the construction of phase two: our traditional building.

Brian Nikula