On Sept. 29, Beau Wagner will begin the journey of carving a cedar dugout canoe at Gabriola Elementary School.
It will be the first time it will happen on the island in front of the community since contact.
“It’s very significant,” Wagner, an artist and woodworker who began carving as a young child, said. “My papa, who cannot be named publicly,” as is Salish custom during the mourning period, “would travel in his canoe with his family and go to different spots, and Gabriola was one of them, to hunt and fish, and to also carve canoes.
“It’s a big deal to finally bring that back to the community.”
Wagner began planning this historic act five years ago when his father was still alive. “I came up with the idea and he loved it. It’s really based on a lot of his teachings and the knowledge that he shared with me.”
The canoe will be dug from a donated cedar log collected near Silva Bay. Arbutus Lumber Yard delivered the log to Gabriola Elementary who is collaborating with Wagner to deliver a program for students alongside the carving of the canoe. It will combine aspects of two programs Wagner delivers, healing canoe and land-based teachings and Coast Salish art.
“Each day the kids will walk through the woods and learn about all of our connections to all our living things and where the cedar comes from and how it surrounds and connects us.”
Students will make their own art as they witness Wagner transform the log into a canoe, which Wagner expects to complete in January or February 2022. What that canoe may ultimately look like is still evolving.
“I’m going to sit with the log and draw lines and figure out what I’m going to be making whether it’s a single, double or tribal journey canoe,” Wagner said.
“I’m excited, honoured and so grateful that it’s all kind of happening. I couldn’t have done it without the community. I reached out and got that log donated; the school stepped forward and wanted the program, and it’s all kind of happened organically.”
The opening ceremony for the beginning of Wagner’s carving and program happens one day before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Though that ceremony is not open to the public, Snuneymuxw First Nation, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools and the City of Nanaimo are hosting a public event called Honouring Our Children happening Sept. 30, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Maffeo Sutton Park/Swy-a-Lana in Nanaimo. The event will include a ceremony to celebrate a welcome pole by Snuneymuxw carver Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw flag recognition, Elder sharings, Snuneymuxw dancers and cultural performances by children and youth.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder