Report on Planned Development for Indigenous Carving Centre at Historic Stewart Farm, Surrey

Surrey is situated on the traditional, unceded lands of the Coast Salish People including the q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (Kwantlen), and Semiahma (Semiahmoo) First Nations. There is a deep history to this land and in late Fall 2020 an unexpected BC government opportunity presented itself and Surrey secured a $400 000 grant towards a project that would provide economic business and development opportunities for Indigenous people, help develop meaningful partnerships and enable traditional knowledge and understanding to be carried forward.

Surrey’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Department launched a strategic plan in 2017 which involved ongoing dialogue and concentrated engagement with leadership from Katzie, Kwantlen and Semiahmoo First Nations that made clear the great work a Carving Center could do, in providing opportunities for Indigenous artists to share Indigenous, cultural practices with the broader community. Carving curriculum is now found in several post secondary schools in BC including Emily Carr, Langara College and the Okanagan College. Surrey is listening carefully and thoughtfully researching existing carving centers around the world from Vancouver, Haida Gwaii, New Zealand, Alaska, Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador, examining models of best practice, built on the guidance and expertise of Indigenous, knowledge-keeper carvers.

The primary objective of the plan is in keeping with the city’s vision for Indigenous Reconciliation and this project meaningfully responds by providing a dedicated space to support the development and sharing of Indigenous cultural practices.Ongoing funding is essential for success as is a permanent purpose-built infrastructure; the grant has expedited the whole project. Preliminary schematic renderings propose how the City will adapt the Boathouse at Historic Stewart Farm. This will be a dedicated space to support Indigenous cultural practices, sharing and understanding. It will provide roughly 1500 square feet of space needed for carvers on both sides of a log and to accommodate moving around large scale carvings. Rolling doors for heat and security and enhancement plans for an added vestibule and viewing space over time are amongst the design plans that have been made in consultation with the q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (Kwantlen), and Semiahma (Semiahmoo) First Nations leadership. Surrey Heritage Advisory Committee and Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee are very supportive and there is ongoing discussion, advice and guidance about the nature of the projects that will take place at the venue. It is hoped that over time there will be multiple, accessible venues to learn about indigenous heritage, across the city.