Remarks: Two-Spirit Coast Salish Mosaic Reveal

The following remarks were delivered by Arig al Shaibah, Associate Vice-President, Equity and Inclusion during the Two-Spirit Coast Salish Mosaic Reveal on November 14, 2023.

Thank you, Corinna.

Good afternoon, everyone. 

First, I want to thank the Coast Salish First Nations peoples for the gracious reception of guests like myself to your traditional, ancestral and unceded territories. It is a privilege and an honour to live and work on the lands you have stewarded since time immemorial. I am here today with gratitude and humility as an immigrant settler of West Asian and Afro-Arab ancestry, and as a representative of the UBC senior leadership.

I’m thrilled to be a part of unveiling this beautiful Two Spirit Pride Mosaic created by Musqueam artist, kʷəlasəltən, Mack Paul. 

As we have heard, Mack developed and gifted this Mosaic to UBC and all Coast Salish 2Spirit/Indigequeer people to offer a visual representation of Coast Salish Two Spirit/Indigenous LGBTQ+ unity, dignity and respect, to recognize the land that the UBC Vancouver Campus is situated upon, and to acknowledge the historic role of 2Spirit/Indigequeer peoples in local cultures.

Publicly installed artistic works can make profound statements about a society’s values and cultural norms. As a queer racialized Muslim, myself, I know first hand the power of claiming space through visual representation to validate one’s identity, sense of belonging and value in the world. 

This mosaic contributes to a movement to revive and reclaim language, space and place for two-spirit people within Indigenous cultures and broader society. The impacts of colonialism, and particularly residential schools, on Two Spirit identified peoples is shared in volume 5 of the TRC report on Canada’s Residential Schools. It invites reflection on pre-colonial Indigenous values and traditions that viewed sexual and gender identity as more fluid than did Europeans. 

When this project first came up for discussion – very much grounded in community efforts and aspirations – it presented a wonderful opportunity for UBC to enact its various commitments and aspirations – for example, to advance goal 5 of 8 of UBC’s Indigenous Strategic Plan to “[enrich] the UBC campus landscape with a stronger Indigenous presence”. This mosaic also specifically advances several of the Plan’s 43 calls to actions, including:

  • The call to dedicate spaces for Indigenous students, faculty and staff to practice and celebrate their cultures (Action 21), and
  • The call to identify and make visible the generational connections of Indigenous peoples to culturally significant places across UBC campuses (Action 22).

Likewise, UBC’s Campus Vision 2050, includes a policy to ensure “a strong Musqueam presence through landscapes, plantings and other prominent campus features that embody Musqueam values and create a sense of welcome to Musqueam territory” – the mosaic will now be a lasting reminder of UBC’s aspirations towards decolonization and reconciliation.

Most importantly, perhaps, the Mosaic serves to honour the lived experiences and contributions of Coast Salish 2Spirit/Indigequeer people, and it will be a beacon of belonging and inclusion for 2Spirit/Indigequeer students, faculty and staff at UBC, a goal that is also aligned with priorities identified by UBC’s Trans, Two-Spirit, and Gender Diversity Task Force.

This Mosaic in this place will serve as a space where Two Spirit/Indigenous LGBTQ+ community members can come to find solace and validation – to feed their holistic spiritual, emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. Others who visit will be invited by the Mosaic’s message to reflect on their allyship. The positive impacts of this installation will no doubt be felt by thousands of students, faculty, staff and community members for many generations to come.

While the journey to this unveiling was long and fraught with some unfortunate delays, the mosaic is now finally here to our collective joy.

I want to recognize the patience and commitment of a diversity of partners for their unwavering commitment on this journey to ensure the project was completed in a good way.

  • Of course we thank the artist, kʷəlasəltən (Mack Paul)
  • Corrina Sparrow, Musqueam community member, UBC student, and President of Transforming Embers 2Spirit Wellness Society
  • Leona Sparrow, Musqueam-UBC liaison
  • Former and current project members from Campus and Community Planning and Infrastructure Development: Shiloh Bouvette, Dean Gregory, Gabriella Scali, Jennifer Dick
  • Liz Calvin, mosaic artist and fabricator
  • Vanessa Campbell and Oddette Wilson, Musqueam First Nation staff
  • Former and current First Nations House of Learning team members: former Director, Margaret Moss, current interim director, Joely Viveiros, and team members Christine Wasiak, Cody Bugler and Ryanne James

The Longhouse is a safe and welcoming space for Indigenous 2-spirit and LGBTQIA+ identifying individuals.

  • Karleen Delaurier-Lyle and Kayla Lar-Son, Librarians, Xwi7xwa  (whei-wha) Library
  • Marko Pajalic and Vanessa Kim from the Equity & Inclusion Office
  • UBC Ceremonies and Events
  • Photographer, Martin Dee
  • Potluck Café Society (a not for profit) that operates Potluck Catering, located in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that employs neighbourhood residents and returns all revenue to the community through programming. 

In closing, I’d like to call kʷəlasəltən (Mack Paul) to please come up to the stage to accept a gift from UBC as a small token of our appreciation. 

Please join me in once again thanking kʷəlasəltən (Mack Paul).