Totest Aleng: Indigenous Learning House

totest Aleng: indigenous learning house

Totest Aleng – Surrey’s Indigenous Learning House is a space for connection, gathering and learning.

Located in Elgin Heritage Park, the learning house is situated on the unceded, traditional and ancestral lands of the Salish peoples, including the q̓ic̓əy̓ (Katzie), q̓ʷɑ:n̓ƛ̓ən̓ (Kwantlen), and se’mya’me (Semiahmoo) nations, and was created in consultation with representatives from the three nations.

The site includes a designated studio to support artistic practices and artists in residence, with the vision of becoming an Indigenous cultural hub for carving, beading, cedar weaving, artist talks and storytelling, as well as an open-air, covered pavilion with a seating area, that can be used for cultural sharing and group programs.

One of the first artists-in-residence is up-and-coming Semiahmoo First Nations artist, Joan Williams. Ms. Williams will be on-site at the learning house opening on June 17 demonstrating the art of cedar weaving, and one of her works, SEMW̱OŦEN (Be Silent), adorns a wall at the Cloverdale Library. 

The learning house neighbours Historic Stewart Farm, a heritage site that illustrates the life of Surrey’s colonial pioneers from 1894 to 1910 which provides the opportunity for interesting reflection on the sites’ two parallel heritages.

The grand opening of the South Surrey Indigenous Learning House was on Saturday, June 17, and included a ribbon cutting ceremony, some formal remarks from City and First Nations representatives, artist demonstrations and cultural sharing, an Indigenous artisan market, food vendors and various activities throughout Elgin Heritage Park and Historic Stewart Farm.

A second Indigenous Learning House will be built in North Surrey.