A new gathering place centered around carving will soon open in consultation with the Kwantlen, Katzie and Semiahmoo nations to serve their area’s large urban and on-reserve Indigenous population.
The City of Surrey is converting an old, under-used building in South “Surrey” into a carving centre. The space, located at “Elgin Heritage Park” and the “Historic Stewart Farm” will host artists in residence and include a covered outdoor space for ceremonies and various programming.
Although the centre won’t open until 2023, the city is already planning to build a second location in North “Surrey” in order to accommodate everyone, since the city is growing quickly and has the largest urban Indigenous population in B.C.
Chief Harley Chappell of the Semiahmoo First Nation says the new centre, when it opens next year, will be an important gathering place. Although the focus is carving, people will be able to share art and culture beyond that.
“Having different styles of arts and crafts, mainly to the land-based nations but also opening it up to the urban Indigenous population who have made Surrey their home,” Chappell says in an interview.
“As host nations we have a responsibility to the urban Indigenous population to ensure adequate facilities for Indigenous gathering.”
Construction is slated to start at the end of this month, and is estimated to be completed in early 2023, according to Ryan Gallagher, Surrey’s manager of heritage administration and facilities.
A Ground Blessing Ceremony with Kwantlen, Katzie and Semiahmoo leaders took place on location in October 2021. Construction was originally supposed to begin in February but it was delayed.
Plans for the carving centre are in response to a five-year plan with the Katzie, Kwantlen, and Semiahmoo First Nations calling for more Indigenous-specific spaces as the city attempts to fulfill its vision for reconciliation,” according to the City of Surrey’s website.
Eventually, the carving centre will host artists in residence and other types of programming, both in-person and virtually. The City of Surrey envisions the centre as being an Indigenous cultural hub for beading, cedar weaving, artist talks and storytelling, says Gallagher.
The City of Surrey also intends to partner with the school district to host field trips so children can be exposed to the rich histories and cultures of the First Nations whose homelands they live on.
The project has received funding from the city’s Capital Plan and various other grants. Now, Gallagher says, the city has received another $3-million from the federal government to build a second location and site analysis is currently underway.
“Surrey is so large geographically that one location in South Surrey doesn’t serve all of the needs,” Gallagher says. “It became abundantly clear that having a location in North Surrey was needed.”
Chief Chappell says having the city initiate these projects and facilitating a dialogue with host nations is a good first step when it comes to inclusion.
“We have a lot of staff at Surrey who are building those relationships and involving us. It’s a newer process having Semiahmoo’s footprint and inclusion in these projects,” he says.
“[We’re] having our presence felt within the municipality instead of just ‘We’re on reserve, we’re over here. If you want to come to us, come to us.’ … All of Surrey is our traditional territory, not the other way around.”