Red Cedar Spindle Whorl Gifted to Colquitz Middle School

Red Cedar Spindle Whorl Gifted to Colquitz Middle School

Dylan Thomas unveiled his beautiful carving, The Salmon People on May 24, 2024.

After a blanketing ceremony, Dylan Thomas unveiled his gift to Colquitz Middle School, a red cedar spindle whorl titled The Salmon People.

There was a peaceful sense of excitement at Colquitz Middle School on Friday, May 24. A sort of feeling that arises from the anticipation of experiencing something beautiful and memorable.

Students and staff welcomed Dylan Thomas (Qwul’thilum), a Lyackson First Nation artist with Lekwungen heritage, who carved a beautiful red cedar spindle whorl as a gift to the school. The gift was unveiled after a blanketing ceremony to thank Dylan for his gift.

“Blanketing is not just a motion we go through,” said Hereditary Chief Edward Thomas, Esquimalt Nation. “It warms the body. It warms the mind. It takes a lot to give a piece of yourself to a piece of wood, a piece of art. The blanket is a reminder to let Dylan know he is not alone. That he can share his gift and will be held here.”

Over the past couple of months, classrooms have been filled with activities related to blanketing ceremonies, drumming, red cedar, salmon and bannock preparation, and Indigenous art—all done to both educate and make Friday’s event even more meaningful.

The event consisted of drumming, a blanketing ceremony, the art unveiling, and refreshments for staff, Elders, and community members afterwards.

Dylan’s artwork is in the form of a spindle whorl, a tool used by the Coast Salish to spin raw wool into yarn. The artwork depicts “six salmon surrounding a human with no separation between the figures.”

In the video linked below, Dylan explains more about his artwork:

I called this piece The Salmon People because Coast Salish people were so intimately tied to the salmon as a resource for the people. I’ve made it so the human face blends into the salmon to show that they are one being.

The imagery that I chose relates back to the fact that Colquitz Middle School is right next to one of the only salmon spawning rivers on the southern part of Vancouver Island.

It was because of an abundance of salmon that the Northwest Coast people were able to become more sedentary and develop very sophisticated art and culture. In Coast Salish mythology, stories vary from nation to nation, but often one story in particular depicts a person who sacrifices themselves to become salmon and promises to return every year so that the people would always have food to take care of their descendants.

The Salmon People spindle whorl depicts six salmon surrounding the face of a human.

As students and staff loaded into the gym on Friday, May 24, student drummers and singers greeted them with the Celebration Song. Carrie Schlappner, the school’s principal, performed a territory acknowledgement and Brianna Bear welcomed the space with a Lekwungen greeting. Teacher Levi Wilson hosted the event, explaining the significance of each stage and PAC President Kindree Draper made remarks on behalf of the school’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC).

“This art is magnetic,” said Esquimalt Elder, Mary Anne Thomas after the artwork was unveiled and underwent a blessing. “You can feel it. And it will bring good things.”

Thank you to Dylan, to the many hands that brought this ceremony to life, and to the staff and students who continue learning and carrying this gift, the art, and the story.

Hear From the Artist, Dylan Thomas

Dylan explains the significance of the spindle whorl and the inspiration for his The Salmon People piece with Rene Schwartz, teacher at Spectrum Community School.

Click here or the image above to hear from Dylan.

Greater Victoria School District No. 61


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