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Salish Sea Sentinel | December 16, 2017

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Musqueam welcoming figure ‘Si’em’ unveiled at SFU

Musqueam welcoming figure ‘Si’em’ unveiled at SFU

A Coast Salish welcoming figure carved by Musqueam artist Brent Sparrow has been unveiled at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

The piece, adorning the entrance of the university’s downtown campus, was revealed during a celebration on Sept 6.

It’s part of a larger effort by the school to acknowledge the unceded Indigenous territory on which its three campuses were built—a Squamish welcoming figure by Jody Broomfield was unveiled at the Burnaby campus earlier this year.

Sparrow’s welcoming post depicts a man wrapped in a wool blanket and cedar hat, and is titled Si’em.

At the unveiling, the artist’s brother-in-law Morgan Guerin introduced the piece, explaining that it is customary for the artist to remain silent at such an event.

“When you have a work such as this, something like a piece of your heart and soul, you do not speak on your own behalf,” Guerin explained. “We are very strong but very humble people.”

Sparrow was born and raised in Musqueam by his mother, famed artist Susan Point. He’s done numerous other carvings that adorn different institutions in Vancouver.

“The house post is a way of showing who your ancestors are and the teachings your ancestors have given you,” Guerin said. “When Brent told me where this post was going, I thought what an amazing and perfect tribute to this house.”

Guerin said the figure will be a reminder to everyone at the school that there is a community behind them.

“Don’t be afraid to tell the truth, don’t be afraid to be strong, there’s a community wrapped around you,” he said.

SFU president Andrew Petter thanked Sparrow and all the representatives from Musqueam who attended the unveiling, calling it “a very special day.”

The piece can now be seen in the foyer of SFU’s Harbour Centre campus on West Hastings Street.