In 2017, PRESS received an Aboriginal Arts Development Award from the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, in order to provide organizational support to the Chinook Collective’s vision of building a Cedar Dugout Canoe as a means of embodying the spirit and intent of Reconciliation.
The artists of the collective are skilled professionals who exhibit a unique lens on contemporary First Nations culture. Each individual within the collective has a distinct skill set and lived experience. Some prefer working on figures and others on paddles, weaving or painting. All share a passion for the traditions, a belief in the power of art to create change, and a certainty that individual efforts are enlarged by collaboration. The members of the Collective believe everyone is an artist.
The Chinook Collective supports the development of First Nations Arts and Culture by removing barriers, facilitating learning experiences and building capacity. For the members of the collective the real challenge of our times is to recognize we are all in this together – that we are all in the same canoe. For this reason, the Collective was united in a project they called Hehewshin – The Way Forward which will have them a Cedar Dugout Canoe, a task that can only be accomplished by the collective effort of all involved.
There are very few traditional Canoe Carvers on the coast. By employing one of the remaining Master Carvers (Joe Martin), this initiative created the opportunity to share traditional knowledge and skills. It also created a venue for this knowledge to be shared within the region’s carving community, its First Nation communities, and the public at large. It was hoped that this project would result in a returning, a rediscovery and re-invigoration of the skills and cultural traditions connected to carving a dugout canoe.
The public aspect of this project had a number of goals:
- To artistically inspire the general public and deepen their understanding and appreciation of Coast Salish culture
- To engage First Nation youth – as well as emerging artists of all demographics – in the traditional Coast Salish art of carving
- To provide a creative space, with mentors and resources, that would enable people to experience their individual artistry in the context of shared creation
It was the Collective’s hope that this aspect of the project would offer an experience of community and celebration that would truly embody the spirit of Reconciliation.