Regional District of Nanaimo headquarters now better reflects the area’s indigenous heritage after four pieces of Coast Salish art were officially unveiled Tuesday night.
The regional district initiated an expression of interest and request for proposal process in 2017 and five artists from three area First Nations were commissioned to create works of art. Noel Brown and James and James Jr. Johnny from Snuneymuxw First Nation created Q’ul-lhanamucum i Stqeeye’ (killer whale and wolf) and Killer Whale, Thunderbird and Salmon respectively, while Brian Bob of Snaw-Naw-As created Consumer Ling Cod and Jessie Recalma of Qualicum First Nation created Heron Spindle Whorl. William Good, a Snuneymuxw artist, will see his work installed when it is finished.
Works by Brown, Bob and Recalma were installed inside the RDN board chambers, while the Johnnys’ piece is situated in the administration building lobby.
Brown said he received guidance from Snuneymuxw elders when working on his piece, as well as from the other artists. He carved his work from red cedar and it took about four weeks to complete.
— Karl Yu (@KarlYuBulletin) October 17, 2018
“It’s a killer whale, the main figure, with a wolf on the dorsal fin and another wolf on the pectoral and an eagle on the tail. That’s the animals they wanted here so I incorporated it and twisted it in my own [way],” said Brown. “I’m so happy to have it in here with other artists like Jessie, Brian Bob, who’s my really good buddy, I look to him for tips all the time, and then Jimmy Johnny. He taught me a lot and I look at his designs and learn off him.”
During the installation ceremony, Bill Veenhof, RDN board chairman, said the artworks were a chance for the regional district to pay respect and recognize Snuneymuxw, Snaw-Naw-As and Qualicum and Mike Wyse, Snuneymuxw chief, said it aids in building a relationship with the RDN.
“It brings our local artists forward to acknowledge them, but it really signifies the relationship, the rapport with the regional district and Snuneymuxw, so we’re really happy that they acknowledged our artists to bring it forward in a way that they have,” said Wyse.
Howard Houle, RDN Area B director, made the original motion for indigenous art six years ago and is pleased with how it turned out.
“I think that this is even better than what I ever expected,” said Houle. “What I expected to be able to do was to sit there in my chair and look out at something that inspired me and made me realize that I am here to do the business of all the people in the regional district and so I was very happy about that. The other [consideration] was, at that time we did not have First Nations recognition here at the regional district and I think it’s very important to have that because we need to show that we respect the First Nations in the territory we occupy.”