New sign un­veiled at PGSS

The Prince George Citizen - - Local - Cit­i­zen staff

This year’s Abo­rig­i­nal feast at Prince Ge­orge Se­condary School, an an­nual event to cel­e­brate First Na­tions education suc­cess at the city’s largest se­condary school, had an artis­tic grand fi­nale.

A new pub­lic sign was un­veiled that will wel­come staff, stu­dents and vis­i­tors to PGSS. It was hand carved by noted Cree/Dakelh vis­ual artist Clay­ton Gau­thier, with help­ing hands from PGSS stu­dents and staff mem­bers. It was crafted out of cedar.

The sign fea­tures a po­lar bear cen­tred at the bot­tom, wrapped around the sides by feath­ers. On top of the po­lar bear and be­tween the feath­ers are the words PGSS Wel­comes You. The pri­mary colour is PGSS green, with black and white out­lin­ing and high­lights.

Gau­thier was asked by PGSS ad­min­is­tra­tors to make the sign.

“There is a high num­ber of In­dige­nous youth at the school,” Gau­thier said. “Art holds a lot of power and they wanted to get the kids feel­ing more at home, in a sense. We in­cor­po­rated the po­lar bear be­cause it’s the school’s logo. As we were mov­ing for­ward with the de­sign, I put in two feath­ers, and the two feath­ers rep­re­sent the road of life. Also, there’s two in there be­cause of the bal­ance that we need in our lives.”

Work on the sign be­gan last fall in a space set up in­side the school. Gau­thier was pleased to wel­come so many peo­ple into the carv­ing process and to teach them some of the tech­niques in­volved.

“It was by who­ever wanted to come and carve,” he said. “Peo­ple came in and tried it out and some of them stayed right from the be­gin­ning un­til the end. It was a va­ri­ety of ages, from Grade 8 to Grade 12, and there were even adults. Teach­ers were carv­ing too – all peo­ple, In­dige­nous and non-In­dige­nous. They were learn­ing about the tools and dif­fer­ent carv­ing tech­niques.

“You’ve got to share (the knowl­edge),” Gau­thier added. “That’s what I re­ally en­joy do­ing. It fills my heart to see these youth. At times, there’s youth that have never carved be­fore but now they’re get­ting their par­ents to buy them carv­ing tools and now they’re carv­ing at home. That’s pretty cool.”

Gau­thier’s own men­tor was Peter Ge­orge, a Wet’suwet’en master carver and ed­u­ca­tor in Prince Ge­orge. One of their sig­na­ture works to­gether is a 16-foot by four-foot cedar carv­ing that hangs in the lobby of the Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal of North­ern B.C. Work on that piece be­gan in 2011.

“That was the first time I re­ally got the chance to learn from an elder,” Gau­thier said. “From his teach­ings, that’s where I’m at now with the carv­ing.”

The new sign will be­come the fo­cal point in a reimag­ined front foyer at the school.

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