Bowen Island Community School held its 10th annual Whale Day on Oct. 1. The day is a celebration of the return of yew yews (orca whales) to the waters around Nexwlélexwm, Bowen Island.
Whale Day is about sharing, learning, connecting, understanding and celebrating both the place we live and the Squamish Host Nation. Whale Day 2021 was a beautiful event that included an outdoor whole-school assembly with Skwxwú7mesh Nation Cultural Worker Bob Baker, held in the festival field in Crippen Park, looking out at Howe Sound and the mountains.
It is hard to encapsulate the heartfelt feeling of being all together on a beautiful sunny autumn day, gathering and witnessing the beauty of our island and feeling connected to the present, the past and future as we listened to language and stories shared by an honoured Squamish Elder, who is not just an educator and knowledge keeper who has visited our school for over a decade, but who has also become a respected and appreciated friend of the school who has taught us many things.
After the whole-school Whale Day assembly, we moved Whale Day up to the BICS Outdoor Learning (OLC) classroom without walls and beside the Welcome Pole, which had many Truth and Reconciliation Day and Orange Shirt Day painted rocks BICS families had thoughtfully placed at the base of the carving. Bob Baker presented to preschool early-learners and a third presentation that was open to the community and families at no charge after school.
A huge thank you to Bob Baker for sharing stories and songs so we could all celebrate the return of the whales to Howe Sound, as well as deepen our connections to place and our Squamish Host Nation.
Whale Day this year is part of the events that were held for the Sept. 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day.
We also celebrate the school’s new logo: a yew yew (whale) that was created by Squamish, Skwxwú7mesh artist Xwalacktun, Rick Harry, as well as the fact that the Átl’ka7tsem / Howe Sound area, has become the 19th UNESCO Biosphere Region.
Whale Day is just one part of the rich and ongoing ways in which BICS is learning about and celebrating our island. This event was made possible thanks to the BICS Indigenous Education Committee, West Vancouver School staff, as well as the Literacy Task Group and community partners such as Bowen Island Community Recreation and Services and the Bowen Island Public Library.