British Columbia

University students folding 1,000 origami ravens as part of 'wish' for reconciliation

In the Japanese tradition of folding 1,000 origami cranes to get their greatest wish, staff and students at the University of Northern B.C. in Prince George are folding 1,000 origami ravens to support their wish for reconciliation.

Project is based on Japanese legend that folding 1,000 paper cranes will grant your greatest wish

Beverly Best is a member of the Stellat'en First Nation and is the manager of Aboriginal Student Engagement at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Staff and students at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George are folding 1,000 origami ravens to support their "wish" for reconciliation.

Led by the university's First Nations Centre, the project is based on the Japanese legend that anyone who folds 1,000 paper cranes within one year will be granted their most desired wish.

"Our wish is for reconciliation," said Beverly Best, the manager of Aboriginal Student Engagement at UNBC.

Best said her team decided to adapt the paper crane project to include a raven because of that bird's importance in West Coast Indigenous culture.

"The raven represents a trickster in many of the legends," she said. "In [the] creation story, he stole the sun to bring light to a dark world, and that's the way we see this with truth and reconciliation: it is the raven helping us bring light to a dark situation."

Paper ravens in the window of UNBC's First Nations Centre. The Centre is encouraging different faculty and student groups to sign up for folding sessions, each of which last between 60 and 90 minutes. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

The folding sessions are more than an art project. Each event begins with Best speaking about the history of Indigenous people in Canada, including residential schools and the 94 Calls to Action laid out by Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Then, staff and volunteers with the First Nations Centre help spark conversations as participants attempt to create their own origami raven.

Best said the difficulty of folding the paper ravens mirrors the difficult conversation Canadians need to have about the country's relationship with Indigenous people.

"About halfway through [the folding] everybody starts groaning and making comments about how hard it is," she said. "But that's also why we chose to do this: because reconciliation itself is difficult, and we want you to be thinking about that when you make your raven. No matter how difficult it is, don't give up."

Participants in the raven-folding exercise are encouraged to discuss topics around reconciliation while they work. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)
Once a raven is completed, participants trade it in for a custom-made pin. The First Nations Centre made 1,000 pins to track how many origami ravens have been folded, with the hope of reaching their goal within a year. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Listen to students attempt to fold a raven and speak about reconciliation using the audio button below.

Maybe you've heard the Japanese legend of folding one thousand origami cranes to get a wish from the gods. At the University of Northern B.C. in Prince George, staff and students are folding one thousand origami ravens as part of a year-long program focused on reconciliation. 5:39

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About the Author

Andrew Kurjata

CBC Prince George | @akurjata

Andrew Kurjata is an award-winning journalist covering Northern British Columbia for CBC Radio and cbc.ca, situated in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh in Prince George. You can email him at andrew.kurjata@cbc.ca.