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Video: Squamish Nation schoolhouse sails to new North Shore home

The 111-year old “Little Yellow Schoolhouse” left Kitsilano via barge Tuesday evening

It’s certainly been quite the journey for one little, bright yellow Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) schoolhouse.

The historic building – which has resided in Kitsilano, the former Squamish village of Sen̓áḵw, since 1912 – was looking set for a date with a bulldozer, penned for demolition to make way for the new Henry Hudson Elementary.

Then, at the final hour, the Nation came to its rescue and shipped it off to safety to its new home here on the North Shore – on a barge, no less.

The “Little Yellow Schoolhouse” was uprooted from its 111-year-long home at 1502 Maple Street under nightfall on Tuesday. Road closures had been in place to ensure the building was safely escorted by truck to the seawall, where it was lifted, carefully and slowly, onto a barge.

The precious cargo voyaged across English Bay overnight before it made its way north, moving around Stanley Park and under Lions Gate Bridge before touching North Shore shores yesterday afternoon.

The final leg of the journey this morning saw the 1,900-square-foot building moved to its new, permanent home close to the Chief Joe Mathias Centre in Xwmélch’sten, where it will be given a new lease of life by the Nation.

As a centre for early childhood education, the building will facilitate the teaching of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim (Squamish language) to little ones from the Nation.

Elected council member Sxwíxwtn (Wilson Williams) said the relocation of the little yellow schoolhouse, a collaboration with partners at the Vancouver School Board and Renewal Home Development, helps the Nation address their “urgent” infrastructure needs.

The new abode will also provide a vital hub for Squamish cultural revitalization, he said.

“It will be put to good use as a dedicated space to teach our little ones Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim, our language, and immerse our future generations in our culture and heritage.”

Victoria Jung, Vancouver School Board chair, added she was pleased to see the “beloved building” repurposed by the Squamish Nation, where it will “continue to serve children today and in the years ahead.”

The rescue of the historic little yellow structure should be an example of how developers and policy makers should be looking towards the repurposing and salvaging of buildings, as opposed to continuously looking to build anew, said Glyn Lewis, owner of Renewal Home Development.

“Now, more than ever, we need an array of development solutions to lower our carbon footprint, divert material waste and provide affordable high-quality homes and buildings to communities in need.”

Lewis said more than 800 high-value buildings and homes are demolished each year that can, and should, be relocated and repurposed.

“Our hope is this Little Yellow School House project will catch the attention and mobilize the imagination of developers and policy makers across the region,” he said. “Machine demolition should be the last option, not the first.”

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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