block could have been carved centuries ago
a nondescript garage in the shadow of the Government House mansion,
Steven Point is carving out a small piece of B.C. history.
province's 28th lieutenant-governor has almost finished transforming
an ancient hunk of red cedar into a four-metre-long handmade inland
hoping to launch it in a local stream later this month and then
donate it back to the people of B.C., as a rare example of an often-overlooked
type of First Nations canoe.
launch ceremony will mark the culmination of hundreds of hours of
work since Point, 58, found the old block of cedar while walking
on Ross Bay beach last November.
ends of the log had already been shaped into points and it looked
like someone had tried to carve it, said Point. His brother, an
experienced carver, pegged the wood at between 500 and 800 years
old, meaning the work could have started before Christopher Columbus
discovered the so-called New World.
B.C.'s first aboriginal lieutenant-governor, who has served as chief
of the Skowkale First Nation and tribal chairman of the Sto:lo Nation,
said he thinks he discovered the log for a reason.
I believe is that you're guided, and when things come in and out
of your life you should pay attention, because something good could
happen," he said.
log had drifted into my life. I decided to finish the canoe from
that carver, whoever he was."
had the log hauled from the beach to a garage behind Government
House where he used to park his truck.
began chipping away at the project during evenings, despite having
never carved a canoe. Then a woman on staff at Government House
suggested Point show the work to her friend -- prolific and celebrated
First Nations master carver Tony Hunt Sr.
whose totem poles are known throughout the world and who has carved
seafaring canoes, volunteered his time to mentor Point.
a unique project, said Hunt, because there are few examples of inland
river hunting canoes on public display. Most canoes in B.C. museums
were used on the ocean, he said. "I've never seen one before,
so that's interesting," said Hunt.
creature has emerged from the wood through late-night carving sessions.
It has the shovel nose, eyes, scales and tail of the legendary monster
in Chilliwack's Cultus Lake, which aboriginal peoples called Slahkum,
said Point. The sides of the canoe are engraved with the crest of
now tells a complete story," said Hunt.
Nations people would have used this type of canoe to hunt in lakes
and streams by lighting a fire in a pit at the bow, hiding behind
a hunting blind, and spearing fish that were attracted to the flame,
lieutenant-governor, who was appointed in 2007 after serving as
a provincial court judge, said he intends to try the hunting method
during the canoe's launch ceremony.
from the novelty of the carving, Point said he hopes British Columbians
see a larger message in the work. "The whole world is kind
of like a canoe travelling and we're all paddling in this thing,
and if we're going to get along, if we're going to make progress,
if we're going to solve our problems, we've got to start paddling
together," said Point.
chose to name the canoe Shxwtitöstel, which means a safe place
to cross the river. It represents the idea of a safe place for reconciliation
between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, said Point.
finished, the canoe will be displayed at Government House and then
donated to a museum.