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'More than a tree': Delta School District planting cedars for reconciliation

Last Updated Apr 16, 2021 at 10:21 pm PDT

(Courtesy Delta School District)
Summary

The Giving Tree Project will plant dozens of cedar trees, all donated by the City of Delta

Paige Hansen with the district says planting the trees is just the start, project provides ongoing education

DELTA (NEWS 1130) — To celebrate Earth Day — and to sow the seeds of reconciliation for current students and future generations — cedar trees are being planted at all Delta schools and district educational buildings.

The Giving Tree Project will plant dozens of trees, all donated by the city.

The district’s Indigenous Cultural Enhancement Facilitator, Nathan Wilson, says the idea started to take root when they realized they couldn’t do the usual playground clean-up for Earth Day.

“We just kind of had a conversation and it just sprouted from that little seed and grew into this great big huge project that we’re doing that’s district wide with cooperation from the City of Delta,” he explains.

“We wanted to help Mother Earth by planting trees. Our tree of choice was the cedar tree because it’s culturally significant to Indigenous peoples from the Northwest here. It’s the Tree of Life, the Giving Tree. One of the main resources that Indigenous peoples used to survive was the cedar tree.”

A description of the project explains the cedar “gives every part of itself to humans for survival: the roots, the bark, the boughs. Traditional uses of the cedar range from carving canoes, building the Long or Big House, making clothing, paddles, tools, and providing medicine.”

Wilson says planting trees requires students to think about and acknowledge the land.

“I think a huge, huge part of reconciliation is understanding the land. The land that we are part of, the land we live, work and play on, have all our enjoyment on is the traditional territory of somebody — or a group of people,” he says.

“Having this little bit of reconciliation, this understanding is important for the education of future generations.”

Paige Hansen with the Delta School District says planting the trees is just the start.

“Teachers have a responsibility, we have a call to action through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to build student capacity for intercultural understanding and empathy. So, it’s not just a tree. It’s a tree of huge significance,” she says.

 

“It’s more than a tree, we come out and it’s a place where you can have some focused learning on the history of this group of people who survived and thrived on this land before settlers arrived.”

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Other parts of the project include plans to put QR codes on posts next to the trees, so passersby can learn about their history and significance. Teachers and students will welcome the trees in ceremonies over the coming weeks, and the Indigenous Education Department will hold a series of virtual events.

Hansen also says the city has been key to the success of the project — which has already seen 41 trees planted.

“They’ve put in every single tree. They donated the trees, they’ve come they’ve prepared the soil, they’ve put the tree in with posts and watering bags. They’ve given us information on how to take care of a new tree they’ve done it for every single high school, secondary school, the school board office, all our education buildings,” she says.

“This project is doing more than just planting trees, it’s building bridges it’s building connections,” Wilson adds.

Students will also be involved in caring for the trees over the summer.

The students have a great opportunity here to feel some pride and ownership of their school, and it’s something to take care of,” Wilson says.

Wilson and Hansen hope other districts will follow Delta’s lead and plant cedars.

Because cedars can take decades to reach their full, towering heght — Hansen says the impact will be long-term.

“This is a legacy, and it’s not a one-time learning opportunity. It will be here, we will have developed resources, we can have all sorts of learning opportunities for as long as that tree and we exist here as a school district to teach kids about, Musqueam and Tsawwassen First Nation,” Hansen says.

Wilson agrees.

“The kids in the school they truly don’t get the full effect of a very large cedar tree quite yet, but it’s their grandkids who will. And when they come up and pick up their grandkids from school they can say, ‘Hey, I was there with that tree was planted, and now it’s touching the sky,”‘ he says.

“I can’t wait, I hope I’m alive the moment when an eagle will call one of these trees home.”