Three panels with images of bears, butterflies, salmon and eagles grace the central hallway of Uplands Elementary School in Langley, B.C. Part of a joint project by the school and Langley Mennonite Fellowship (LMF), the panels were created by Elinor Atkins of the Kwantlen First Nation.
Atkins spent three days as artist-in-residence at the school last year, painting the panels and answering questions from students about her journey as an artist and what it means to be Indigenous.
She presented her work publicly at a school ceremony on Jan. 25, explaining the various animals depicted on the panels:
- The bear represents strength, family and love;
- Butterflies represent growth, change, transformation and hope;
- Salmon swimming upstream to spawn, represent resiliency, strength and tenacity; and
- The eagle in flight represents taking people’s prayers, hopes and wishes to the Creator.
Helga Goetzke, a Langley church member who teaches at the school, helped spearhead the project together with Tina Maphoso, an Uplands Aboriginal support worker. Atkins was paid from the LMF Indigenous Relations Reconciliation Fund.
“Aboriginal program staff and students, both from Uplands as well as from other schools in the district, led a honouring ceremony for Elinor Atkins,” said Goetzke.
On behalf of the school, Maphoso thanked LMF representatives “for this gift that has resulted in beautiful art that will remind us of stories and lives that connected for a few moments, and shifted thinking for longer.”
Henry Krause of LMF said the project was intended to be “a sign of hope for all children to live fully into good relations, learning together about our past and building a good future grounded in understanding, respect and justice.”
This article appears in the Feb. 27, 2023 print issue, with the headline “Langley church supports Indigenous school art project.”
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