Mouse Woman drawing by Luke J. Parnell

The Beat

A monthly newsletter about the art of

First Nations on Canada’s West Coast

Welcome to the twenty-seventh issue of The Beat, a free, independent newsletter that brings you up-to-date on the art, artists and events of the First Nations on Canada’s Pacific Coast.

We respectfully acknowledge the Coast Salish Peoples, on whose traditional territories we live and work, and all the First Nations of the Pacific coast.


S’abadeb – The Gifts: Pacific Coast Salish Art and Artists will be at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria until March 8 2010. The exhibition originated in 2008 at the Seattle Art Museum (see The Beat November 2008).

The (Coast Salish) Lushootseed word for “gifts,” S’abadeb (“sa-BAH-deb”) is the sustained act of giving of one’s time, resources and expertise during the course of everyday activities. The exhibition features 165 objects expressive of Coast Salish culture, contemporary and historical. An award-winning book accompanies the show. See'abadeb/Default.aspx

Lisa Hageman’s partially completed Ravenstail Chief’s Robe 2009

A significant moment in the history of Haida weaving will come in December, when Haida weaver Lisa Hageman will unveil and dance a robe that she created during the summer of 2009 at the Haida Heritage Museum in Haida Gwaii. Hageman’s explanation: “A defining trait of Haida weaving is the z-twist, or counterclockwise weave. In the Ravenstail weaving of the ancestral Haidas, not only was the weaving motion z-twist but the warp and weft fibres were also spun z-twist.  This particular Ravenstail Chief's Robe is of historical significance because it is the first robe in over a century to be woven on Haida Gwaii that has all three z-twist components.  Two robes have been woven on Haida Gwaii since the 1990's using z-twist warp and s-twist (commercial wool is spun clockwise) weft. I accord great honour to my ancestral weavers but also to the modern weavers who taught me that it was possible.”

Professor Charlotte Townsend-Gault of the University of British Columbia will give a lecture Art Claims in the Age of Delgamuukw: What Aboriginal Art is Doing Today in BC at the Coach House, Green College at UBC at 5 pm on Tuesday December 1 2009. The announcement states: “If ‘Northwest coast art’ as a viable generic term is increasingly disputed, the claims made for the potency of the cultural expressions of the region’s First Nations have never been stronger.”

The Lattimer Gallery at 1590 West 2nd Avenue in Vancouver is having an Open House on December 5 2009, from 5 to 8 pm, featuring new works by artist Andrew Dexel aka Enpaauk. Dexel’s painting style “mixes graffiti style with North West Coast design creating figurative and abstract images that speak to resistance and renewal.” See

The Douglas Reynolds Gallery will launch Haida artist Jim Hart’s White Raven sculpture (see The Beat October 2009) on Saturday, December 5 2009. Hart will speak about the inspiration for his sculpture at 1 pm.


Spirit Wrestler Gallery is exhibiting new work by Haida artist Robert Davidson, including the gallery exclusive limited edition print Oyster Catcher. In November the book Four Decades, An Innocent Gesture documenting the 40th anniversary of Robert and Reg Davidson’s pole raised in Massett (see The Beat September 2009) was launched at the Gallery in Vancouver’s Gastown. The Gallery’s website is

The same November event was a celebration of an awards received by the Haida Gwaii Singers for their sets of CD’s of traditional Haida music. Reg and Robert Davidson and Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson are key singers in the group. The latter won the Award for Best Female Traditional/Roots Artist for Lalaxaaygans Beautiful Sound in the set The Haida Gwaii Singers: Contemporary Anthology at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards in Hamilton in November 2009.

For more on the Haida Gwaii Singers, and to hear a sample of the music, visit their website at

The Inuit Gallery’s exhibition Heat – Works in Glass includes work by Nuu chah nulth artist Joe David, Coast Salish artist Andy Everson and many others, in Vancouver until December 11 2009. See

The Appleton Galleries’ Holiday Art Sale will be launched with a wine and cheese reception on Thursday December 3 at 5-8 pm. The sale includes carvings, graphics, wall hangings, masks and more, and continues until Sunday December 6. The Gallery is at 1451 Hornby Street, near the Granville Bridge in Vancouver.

A special preview of the documentary film about the Tribal Journeys, Canoe Way: The Sacred Journey is happening in soon at the Longhouse Education and Cultural Centre at Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington. A Holiday Native Arts Fair on Friday December 11 and Saturday December 12 2009 will be the occasion of the preview. The documentary will be shown hourly from 11 am to 5 pm on Saturday.

The film documents the annual Tribal Journeys of Pacific Northwest Coast Salish people. Indigenous tribes and First Nations from Oregon, Washington, Canada and Alaska follow their ancestral pathways through the waters of Puget Sound, Inside Passage and the Northwest Coast. Families and youth reconnect with the past and each other. Ancient songs, dances, regalia, ceremonies, and language were almost lost and are coming back.”

The Seattle Art Museum will celebrate the recent acquisition of a painting by Skokomish cultural leader and artist Gerald Bruce subiyay Miller on December 3 2009 at 5:30 pm. The artist created The End of the Ancestors in 1992. It is a large installation made of wood, wool bark, beads and shells and is a gift of the Klein family.

The ceremony honouring the late artist and the work will feature Skokomish song and dance, and will be followed by Indian Country: Enduring Gifts, a Pecha Kucha Night, from 7 to 9 pm. Artists, critics and designers will perform at this free “Art for All” event.

Part I of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibition Visions of British Columbia: A Landscape Manual has opened on the VAG’s second floor. The show is “an extensive two-floor survey of art” in British Columbia and includes “landscapes, cityscapes and portraits in a variety of media that speak to the diversity of British Columbia, its peoples and its histories.”

Work by First Nations artists of British Columbia include an impressive installation of masks by the late Kwakwaka’wakw artist Willie Seaweed, two large sculptures by Bill Reid, and paintings by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. A gallery is devoted to the imposing white sculpture Cetology, 2002, by Brian Jungen. An imposing three-metre long wall sculpture commissioned by the VAG from Haida artist Robert Davidson, Killer Whale Transforming into a Thunderbird is a transformation mask (activated by a secret remote control device).

Part II of Visions of British Columbia will open on January 23 2010.


The shop of the Xa: ytem Longhouse at 35087 Lougheed Highway in Mission BC is holding a Christmas Sale November 30 to December 23 2009. A visit to the Longhouse is an excellent way to learn about the culture and history of the First Nations who live along the Fraser River.

For more see

The Ruby Creek Art Gallery on Highway 7, near Agassiz BC, has works from local and other Northwest coast First Nations artists.


The Arctic Studies Center of the Smithsonian in Anchorage Alaska has an online exhibition in its “Virtual Museum” about the peoples of the North Pacific: Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Siberia and Alaska. It is described on the website: “The rugged and remote lands and waters of the North Pacific are not at all like the barren wastelands described by early European explorers and cartographers. For at least the past 16,000 years humans have adapted to the harsh climate of the region, making a bountiful living from the abundant natural resources of Bering Strait. Crossroads of Continents celebrates the wide diversity and common ancestry of these North Pacific cultures, providing an entirely new understanding of the peoples on both sides of Bering Strait.” Investigate the cultural affinity of our Northwest peoples with the Koryk and other Siberian peoples.

Tour the online exhibit

A major retrospective of a Washington State First Nations artist will be shown at the Tacoma Art Museum through January 10 2010, Joe Feddersen: Vital Signs. “Featured are selections of Joe Feddersen’s printmaking, collage, glass, and weaving created since 1996. Following in the footsteps of his Plateau Indian ancestors, who interpreted their environment in the patterns of their baskets, Feddersen transforms the rhythms of the urban centers and natural landscapes surrounding him into art forms that are both coolly modern and warmly impressionistic.” See

Books that have been published by or about British Columbia First Nations art during 2009 may well be popular holiday gifts: Red! an illustrated narrative by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, and Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast. The latter has outstanding colour photographs of art in the exhibition of that name which is slated to travel to Vancouver later in 2010.

O Siyam: Aboriginal Art inspired by the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Whistler and Vancouver has appeared recently, published by the Vancouver Committee organizing the Games (VANOC). It is a useful guide to the art commissioned for the Games. It can be difficult to locate and identify works in a busy sports venue; this book shows the work, and gives background and artist biographies.

The 2010 calendar, the nineteenth in the fine series called The Gathering by Garfinkel Publications, features beautiful colour photographs: carvings by Cory Moraes and Luke Marston, a print by Ryan Cranmer, a mask by Alvin Mack and a hat by Michael Dangeli, among others, show the range and great strength of BC’s Northwest artists. For more on the calendar and other items available, see

The Native Youth Artists Collective is offering a Drop In Screen Workshop at the Purple Thistle Centre near Clarke and Venables in Vancouver. Native young people are welcome to participate and learn silkscreen skills in this free program, every Tuesday from 6 to 8 pm, and Wednesdays 5 to 7 pm, at #260—975 Vernon Drive. For more information, call 604 649 4629 or email

First Nations participation in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver has been fostered and taken many forms. The 8,000 square-foot Aboriginal Pavilion will be located on the plaza of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Downtown Vancouver. A 3,000 square-foot sphere, surrounded by a Coast Salish Longhouse will showcase the art, business, culture and sport of Canada’s First Nations. The adjacent Queen Elizabeth restaurant will be a Reception Hall, featuring aboriginal themes and cuisine.

On a more modest scale, the Misty Isles Economic Development Society is planning to transform a downtown Vancouver hair salon into a miniature Haida longhouse during the February 2010 Winter Olympics to attract more tourists to the islands of the Haida Gwaii in northern British Columbia. The project will be located in the Hampton Inn and Suites on Beatty Street in downtown Vancouver across from BC Place. A Haida designer Gina Mae Schubert will transform the space and the venue will be staffed with “Haida Gwaii ambassadors”. The goal is to increase tourism to the islands. (This news is from the Queen Charlotte newspaper, the qciobserver, November 25 2009.)

Vancouver-based artist Rebecca Belmore receives a 2009 Hnatyshyn Foundation Visual Arts Award on December 1, in Winnipeg. The $25,000 prize for outstanding achievement by a Canadian artist honours her thought-provoking work in a variety of media including sculpture, installation, video and performance. The jury noted: “Since the late 1980s, Rebecca Belmore has challenged romantic conceptions of Aboriginal cultures through a remarkable series of performance art pieces and mixed media installations. Her work combines passionate thinking and a brilliant use of materials with a deep cultural knowledge drawn from her Anishinaabe heritage. Working tirelessly against historical amnesia, her work gives expression to silenced voices by restoring value to community, local experience and the land.”

The airport of Vancouver has earned praise and many awards for its art commissions and programs. The YVR Art Foundation, in collaboration with corporate sponsors, offers an art scholarship to First Nations youth who wish to develop their artistic potential in traditional Northwest Coast art. YVRAF also funds scholarships awarded by the Emily Carr University and the Northwest Community College’s Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art.

Young First Nations artists interested in the scholarships are invited to visit the website at

The deadline for applications is January 31 2010.

The Le-La-La Kwakwaka’wakw Dancers are presenting a new performance, Encircling Our Ancestors – Spirit Journey, at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo on Thursday December 3 2009, and on Friday December 4 at the Victoria Conference Centre.

In this program songs of welcome, celebration and farewell are
performed. One scene adapts a sequence from Edward Curtis’s film In the Land of the Headhunters, with eight masked figures creating a tribute to their ancestors who performed in the film. Dramatic use of lighting and technology enhance the otherworldly atmosphere. Vancouver performances February 14 to 20 2010 will be at the Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver.


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Thank you to David Dumaresq, Martin Landmann, Lisa Hageman, Bruce Grenville, Sharifah Marsden, Larry Garfinkel, Herb Auerbach, Martine Reid, and others, for your assistance. The Beat is an independent, not-for-profit project written and published in Vancouver Canada by Ann Cameron. Copyright 2009 Ann Cameron.