Totest Aleng: Indigenous Learning House
Learn about this new space for connection, gathering and learning.
A venue for learning
The new facility provides local space to support Indigenous cultural practices, including carving and other creative disciplines. The unique venue includes enclosed studio space, as well as an open-air pavilion to support additional programming and gathering. The programming model for the facility will include artists-in-residence, workshops, events and public and school programs.
Commitment to dialogue and community engagement
Development of the venue and its programming has been informed by ongoing dialogue and consultation with Semiahmoo, Kwantlen and Katzie First Nations.
Meaning of the name
The name Totest Aleng (pronounced tot-est ah-leng) was generously gifted by Semiahmoo First Nation. It is a SENĆOŦEN name that roughly translates to learning house and references the various activities planned for the new facility.
"I am thrilled that we have been able to collaborate with the City to create this incredible new space. It provides a much-needed space to support cultural practices, learning and dialogue in a meaningful way.”
Chief Harley Chappell, Semiahmoo First Nation
The venue is located in Elgin Heritage Park, which 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. The venue neighbors Historic Stewart Farm, sharing a parking lot and washrooms. On the grounds, you can reflect on the park’s layered histories and learn from your experiences.
Artist in residence
Resident artists will engage the community through artist led activities, workshops, artist talks and other methods of their choosing. Artists will have full use of the space and onsite tools and resources to support their work. Artist residencies are designed to support local Indigenous artists and give them opportunities to work on their creative and cultural craft in a new, inspiring environment. Learn more about the Artist in residence program.
The inaugural year of public programming included cedar weaving, a corn husk doll workshop, a plant walk and a beaded fedora workshop. Stay tuned for news about more upcoming programs in 2024.
Collaboration between Indigenous leaders, Surrey School District and City staff is underway to develop school programs that are curriculum current and unique to the venue. Classes are expected to begin arriving for field trips in January 2024.
In the news
The Indigenous Learning Centre is one of several capital projects approved by City Council in the 2021 budget, with additional funding support from the Government of Canada, Heritage BC and Friends of the Surrey Museum and Archives Society. For more information, see the Capital Projects page.