VIU Cowichan Paddle Ceremony

Paddle ceremony welcomes back VIU Cowichan community

September 8, 2021
Author: Eric Zimmer

The paddles were gifted to the campus and carved by the son of an Elder-In-Residence

After more than a-year-and-a-half of remote and virtual learning, VIU Cowichan officially welcomed students and employees back to campus last week with a paddle installation ceremony.

The two paddles were donated by Hwiem’ Marlene Rice, VIU Elder-in Residence, and carved by her son, George Rice. One paddle contains the word Q’ushin’tul, while the other paddle displays the word’s meaning, Walking Together. Another carving in the shape of a canoe contains the letters VIU. 

The paddles are meant to acknowledge the Cowichan campus community, not so much to remember the pandemic, but to remember how employees and students came together through this challenging time to connect, plan and support each other.

VIU Cowichan Paddle Ceremony

The installation ceremony was also the first day back on campus for many employees in months, according to Jessie Chalmers, VIU Cowichan Campus Administrator.

“Auntie Marlene felt this would be a great way to welcome everybody back, to share the work that everybody has done, walking together to this point in time, but also recognize how important it is to continue to walk together as we move forward,” he says.

And while the paddles themselves were carved a little while ago, amidst COVID-19 restrictions and protocols, Chalmers says the timing of the installation event was meant to ensure “that when we did install them, that we were able to bring our community together to celebrate.”

With a new school year now underway, the ceremony was an important part of making sure “that everybody feels that they have that support, that we are walking together, and that we’re going to make it through this,” he adds. “We’ve made it through the last 18 months, and we’re going to make it through any of the future challenges that the pandemic is going to throw at us.”

For George Rice, the idea of “walking together” is pertinent to VIU “because the different people that come here to learn come from all walks of life. What we need to look at is how to walk with each other in learning, and VIU is a place to learn, so walking together is going to show that. Not a lot of us know how to walk together, or how to be together, so this is a good place to start.”

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