Kayla Hartley & Maya McNamara / Staff reporters
Gleneagle’s girls group meets every Wednesday and helps with projects like the Button Blanket, to show Aboriginal culture and spirit. Carrie Clarke, an Aboriginal youth worker helps with this group and explains all about the group and project.
The “Girls Group was created to empower young women to achieve emotional and economic self-sufficiency by ensuring they graduate from high school and begin their college or career journeys. It is a place where girls can identify their goals and intentions. There are girls in the group of varied ethnicities,” Clarke said.
Girls Group first the idea of the button blanket to principal Ken Cober, who has since been promoted to assistant superintendent in Maple Ridge, because of the “lack of indigenous art displayed around the school. I applied a grant to cover the cost of materials for the blanket and when it was granted, we then had to decide on the design. I got the art teacher to have a contest for the best design for the blanket and Mr.Cober wanted to use something that reflected the school logo” said Clarke.
Clarke then carries on saying “Last year I put an announcement in the daily announcements to invite anyone wo wants to work on it [with the Girl’s Group], to meet me in the counselor’s area. I had no takers [willing to join]” said Clarke. This is an opportunity to experience Aboriginal culture and to chat.
Every Wednesday they come together and pursue Indigenous arts and stories as well as other different activities and field trips.
The whole purpose of the blanket is not meant “for sleeping, but [is] worn like a cape at ceremonies, usually decorated with a family crest designed by the elders,” Clarke explained.
The button blanket is a “wool based blanket originally created by the Northwest Coastal peoples” said by Clarke.
Colors that are used are important because they each represent a trait or certain belonging, “red which represent protection (like a hug) and black (colors of the northwest coast). The border stops at the bottom; it is open to energy of the earth to the wearer.
Buttons are sewn wherever the artist wants them placed, however before European contact, abalone, bones and seashells were sewn into the blankets” said Clarke.
Other students can be involved in projects like these. Ideas like these have been happening all over the school district to show empathy and spirit for those who have Aboriginal heritage.
Makenna Stopa, grade 10, explained she was in a previous project like this one at Summit Middle School. “I think it represents the school and what represents us, for example we involved a sun which meant summit suns, and turtles meaning turtle island.
This is important because it shows who we are, the land we stand on, and everyone who worked on it got to put a button on it which shows the effort we put into it. This year’s button blanket at Gleneagle will help students realize what represents us as a school with the symbols we end up choosing, the blanket will bring [a] special meaning to where ever it’s worn, showing that we are on First Nations land and that we should all respect that” Stopa explains.
Students should respect these cultural ideas and Clarke explains why it is important “students of Gleneagle will appreciate and respect the blanket when it is complicated and understand the pride and hard work that goes into it. Some blankets created today, may still use some of those things instead of small white buttons.”
Blankets are made with precision and delicacy, “When completed [it] will create a sense of belonging to the Indigenous students including the grade 9’s when they [first] walk into the school.”
Clarke carries on and describes “the design of the blanket has a symbol of both power and prestige as well as peace and friendship. The design is an eagle in the center of the blanket and salmon on either side of the bottom. The eagle represents honor and strength, leadership and wisdom.”
The project “is important for the school and for the students because it creates awareness, curiosity and is [a] reminder of who’s land we share and learn on. My hope is that it will always be admired and respected in the school and hopefully inspire a new project or two for the school or peers.”