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Musqueam Honouring Ceremony at the Bronze Disk
reconciling culturally distinct acknowledgement ceremonies in a post TRC Canada (MRK II)
Notable members and guests of Musqueam and UBC gathered Thursday May 11th, 2023 at the base of the Reconciliation Pole on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓-speaking Musqueam people. The event was co-hosted by Wayne Sparrow, yəχʷyaχʷələq, Chief of Musqueam Indian Band and Deborah Buszard, Interim President and Vice-Chancellor, UBC.
As reported previously James Hart, 7idansuu (Edenshaw), carver of the Reconciliation Pole, invited Kayám̓ Richard Campbell, Musqueam master carver, to design and carve the art for the bronze disk installed at the base of the Reconciliation Pole. The bronze disk is fittingly called θəʔit (truth) and links Musqueam land with the pole carved by a Haida artist on a subject that touches all peoples who make this province, this country, home.
Disclosure: I was invited to this event as a member of the UBC Board of Governors. However, nothing in this story is an official representation of the Board, UBC, or Musqueam Indian Band. These are my observations. This story was originally posted on May 16, 2023. It has been edited on request of Musqueam’s Communications Officer to summarize “the ceremony, pulling key quotes from the speeches and providing some narrative about what it meant for you to attend and witness Musqueam art and culture shared at UBC as an Indigenous person, professor and member of the UBC board of governors. I also think it would be interesting to hear your perspective on the remarks made and themes of the day, including acknowledging the truth when discussing reconciliation, and the importance of Indigenous protocols.” [story originally published May 16, 2023. Revised and republished May 19, 2023]
As a longstanding Indigenous faculty member at UBC (first appointed in 1996) I have been witness to many changes and advancements in how UBC acknowledges the rights and title holding Nations and also UBC’s own Indigenous community members (many of us coming from across Indigenous North America). The university I entered was made easier by scholars who cleared the way before me: like Q’um Q’um Xiiem Jo-ann Archibald. The younger generation that follows us will have even more opportunities to grow and develop and to re-envision places like UBC to ensure they are open and welcoming to all Indigenous peoples. Works like the Reconciliation Pole and θəʔit (‘truth,’ the bronze disk) highlight a hope for a new future where Indigenous peoples, no matter where we are from, are welcome within the university.
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The event, while co-hosted by Musqueam and UBC, featured two separate, but linked, ceremonies. The first was a Musqueam honouring ceremony led by Richard Campbell’s family. The second was a UBC presentation consisting of speeches from the president, lead artist, donor, and UBC’s chancellor. What follows is an account of the two ceremonies.
Musqueam Honouring Ceremony
The event opened with a Musqueam honouring ceremony. In customary form the ceremony was hosted by Richard’s family, here represented by members of the archaeology and administrative units of the Musqueam Indian Band. Alec Dan, Master of Ceremonies (MC) for Musqueam opened the ceremony by calling up Richard Campbell’s daughter, Vanessa who spoke first in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and then in english welcoming guests and witnesses.
“hay ce:p səy̓em̓,” Alec Dan said, “for welcoming everyone not only to our territory, but to the wonderful event that's taking place today. The family would like to move into their work at this time. We'll call a few individuals forward as witnesses to witness the work that the family has on their mind. So we'll move into that”.
Four witnesses were called up: yəχʷyaχʷələq Wayne Sparrow (Chief of Musqueam Indian Band), sʔəyəɬəq Elder Larry Grant, təweyməltxʷ Laurence Paul (younger brother of Richard Campbell), kʷiɬeləm Victor Guerin (language consultant and knowledge holder). The family gave each witness gifts for the work they were to do. In traditional Coast Salish fashion the representatives of the family walked in a circle in front of each witness and gave them quarters and thanked them directly for the work of witnessing they were to do. This was repeated for each of the four witnesses.
After the witnesses were called and given gifts Alec Dan then explained to the audience:
“To the witnesses that were called. Once again speaking on behalf of the family here, they just wanted to recognize our relative for the wonderful work he's done. Honour him, show him that support, strength not only from the family, but from the community also. The family has on their minds one work today, again to recognize our relative with the gift that he has with his hands and carving the wonderful art that he works with and brings out to the public to share, to let the people know who we are as xʷməθkʷəy̓əm. So that's what's on the family's heart and mind today. hay ce:p səy̓em̓.”
Richard had a blanket placed on him and was brought up to the front of the gathering.
Alec Dan then called yəcecə John Stogan to sing an honour song. At the conclusion of the song, the MC thanked the singer.
Gordon Grant was then called forward to speak on behalf of Kayám̓ Richard Campbell. Gordon acknowledged the speaker and the singer, thanking them formally on behalf of Kayám̓.
“I'm so honoured, humbled, privileged, that my good friend Kayám̓ asked me to stand up and say a few words on his behalf. Speaking of humility, that's exactly the word to define this man right here. In our ways you don't speak about your triumphs or your creations because we're taught to be humble and that you ask someone else to do it on your behalf. … “So with that, my dear friend Kayám̓ wants to thank each and every one of you for being here and implores all of you to keep that narrative going of Truth and Reconciliation, because it's advocates, like yourselves, our guests here today, that are going to change the narrative moving forward.”
The family concluded their work by calling up James Hart, Max Chickite, the Belkin Gallery, and Michael Audain of the Audain Foundation to acknowledge their roles in supporting Kayám̓ Richard Campbell.
The four witnesses spoke next.
yəχʷyaχʷələq Wayne Sparrow, Chief of Musqueam Indian Band, opened with an implicit reference to ancient Haida forays into Musqueam territory - the same account he gave when he spoke at the Reconciliation Pole Raising in 2017 (I was in attendance to witness the speeches in 2017).
“Haida Nation was so respectful. When we raised the [Reconciliation] Pole the Haida Nation offered a gift to our community. They fulfilled that gift by giving our community a couple of big cedar logs for our carvings. Our hands are up to the Haida Nation for acknowledging. I asked if the gift was to bring Miles [Richardson, a noted Haida leader] back to Haida Gwaii, but they still haven't done that.” [Laughter broke out]
“I just want to really quickly thank Jim and the community. I know our elder is going to talk about truth and reconciliation, but I just want to say a few words to our guests.”
Chief Sparrow acknowledged all the people who worked to make the installation of the bronze disk possible. He concluded by commending Richard. Then, in a delightful gesture toward BC’s working waterfront he said he had to leave the ceremony early as his fishing crew was ready and waiting for him at the dock. “It’s prawn season,” he said as he headed toward his car and down to his boat. These remarks reminded me of my father, also a commercial fisherman. It made real how the world of fishing governed our lives. Even today my father, who is in his 90s, keeps an eye on the water and the goings on around the commercial fisheries.
Next at the podium was sʔəyəɬəq Elder Larry Grant. He thanked Richard and Jim for their collaboration. He then highlighted the important issues of protocol:
“I can remember when it was first mentioned that this pole was being commissioned. I'm going, ‘what the heck is Audain, [the donor] talking about? This is our land. This is not Jim Hart's land. This is not Haida territory.’ So I know this piece that's about truth and reconciliation. It's a magnificent piece. I really, truly appreciate it, the work that went into it, and I really, truly appreciate the base. There is the connection between Haida Protocol and Musqueam Protocol.”
Elder Grant highlighted that we are in a post Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) world. In these times there are obligations and expectations around honouring title and rights holders and respecting their protocols. Echoing Chief Sparrow’s comments about Musqueam/Haida relations, Elder Grant reminded the audience that “this is Coast Salish territory.”
The philanthropists that have made their fortune on indigenous land, ignoring indigenous people, going about in their colonial mindset that this is art for art sake. It is not art for art sake. These Poles carry the history, the lineage, the clan history of the Haida people. Not about Coast Salish people. It's a marker. Those Poles are in front of their big houses where they belong, not in front of another clan. It belongs in front of their house. That is being ignored by the philanthropists of the world that commodify cultural carvings, representations and commodify them and hang them all over the world without permission.”
Elder Grant ended his remarks with a “thank you for the work that has gone on today and in the years that it took to have it completed.”
One of Richard Campbell’s brothers, təweyməltxʷ Laurence Paul, spoke next. He expressed his thanks to all that made the work possible. He expressed his pride in his brother Richard, a residential school survivor, for having the strength to do this “artwork for truth and reconciliation.”
The final witness, kʷiɬeləm Victor Guerin, called out the word reconciliation:
“I have a problem with that word, that English word, reconciliation. It suggests that there was a conciliatory relationship that needs to be restored, and that's a lie. There was never any conciliatory relationship between us and the crown. So we need to find a better term. ... Kayám̓, I want to thank you for the work that you've done that stands before us here. The work that you do creates a face for our people, a public presence for our people, and not only that, but a face on the land for our ancestors. And thank you for that.”
“I also want to thank all of the people that came out today. You've heard from a few of us that have been called upon to be witnesses, but in fact, we're designated as witnesses to keep the history of the events that happened here today. But really, everyone is a witness. Our elders teach us that if there are no witnesses when you have an event, then it's as though that event never even happened. So you're all an important part of the event today.”
After the witnesses spoke the family had a ‘giveaway’ in which small gifts were given to everybody in attendance. This idea of acknowledging witnesses is similar across the coast. In Gitxaała there are events (we call them feasts) in which people are recognized, honoured, and receive names. Back home the distribution of feast goods (crockery, linen, food, etc) is also part of the host’s acknowledgement and compensation of those who have come to witness - for witnessing is an important act of cultural work.
The responsibility to respect protocol falls to UBC as the mainstream society corporate institution. Several of the speakers highlighted the ongoing history of disregarding Musqueam protocols at UBC. This is an old story, not as old as the histories Wayne Sparrow obliquely referenced, but an old story nonetheless.
Settler conceptions of Indigenous art have held up the north coast (where I am from) Tsimshian, Tlingit, and Haida- art traditions as the essence of Indigenous art in BC. There is a long history of exclusion and overt dismissal of Coast Salish traditions. In my classes I often give a ‘reverse' tour of the Museum of Anthropology’s (MOA) grounds (see video below). When opened in the 1970s MOA had a full scale Haida village on the grounds and no local works or installations. Over time, as a result of Musqueam pressure, this has changed. In the video you can see the social archaeological explication of how MOA shifted and adapted. Late last year (December, 2022) I did a story on UBC and MOA’s relationship with Musqueam in which some of the early changes are described.
Finding the balance between honouring the rights and titleholding Nations and the obligations and commitments to Indigenous peoples more generally is a matter UBC is trying to navigate. UBC is an international research intensive university with partnerships extending well beyond the immediate locality of our campuses. UBC does work with First Nations led by settlers and by Indigenous scholars alike. UBC’s community of Indigenous faculty, staff, students, and guests include people from many nations. I myself am a member of the north coast Gitxaała and have relatives who are Tlingit, Haida, Heiltsuk, and Haisla. Under UBC’s Indigenous Strategic Plan many commitments have been made to us as an Indigenous community at UBC. UBC should not follow the way of earlier BC resource sector companies and enter into confidential Impact Benefit Agreements with First Nations Band Councils, but instead should chart a more inclusive path that acknowledges titleholders and our diaspora communities here at UBC.
After the giveaway was done UBC began their component of the event.
Liz King Osadczuk, UBC Director of Ceremonies, MC’d the UBC acknowledgement. UBC’s first speaker was Interim President Deborah Buszard.
Buszard spoke about the “awe inspiring work … as a powerful reminder of the tragic history of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.” Buszard mentioned how the generous support of the Audain Foundation made the work possible. Buszard then spoke about James Hart’s history as an artist and invited him to the podium.
Master carver 7idansuu James Hart, of the Saanggalth Stastas Eagle Clan, Haida Nation came up to the podium escorted by his spouse of many years.
“Thank you everybody and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you all. I have my wife standing beside me. You know how it is. Life is tough and you can't do it by yourself. She's my pillar. She holds me up when I need to be held up.”
“I want to thank the Chancellor, Steven Point and President Deborah Buzzard and Michael Audain and his wife Yoshi and the Audain Foundation for allowing this to happen, in the sense that they financed the ideas. We put it together. He liked the idea.”
“The idea was a drawing and we went from there to full size and it took over a year to find the proper log to take the volume that I wanted for this piece. I drew it up and we had the disc in the bottom and I had to explain what the idea was behind that.”
“So I come from Haida Gwai and I know better and more about traditional lands and territories and this is not on Michael [Audain]. It was my fault. I take the brunt of not pushing and prodding hard enough to make sure that everything was okay in Musqueam and Squamish territory. It was a new thing for those people [in the non-Indigenous world] to understand that we have to pay respect to people's traditional lands. They're still learning about that.”
“We have been fighting for our rights for many, many years. We luckily, a couple of days ago, we have been recognized. Our Council of the Haida Nation has been recognized as the governing body of the Haida people. That's the BC government recognizing [just a] couple of days ago, that's history. But that's the fight that we take on. Like this pole, this pole, was very tough to make because of the content and what the meaning is behind it all. People that suffered these different schools that they went to would come up to me as we're working and tell me their stories, the things that would happen to them. It was terrible grief that I had to listen, I wanted to listen, I wanted to hear these stories. That's what it was about. But in the end I had to put it aside so I could carry on with the work, which I felt bad about, but that's the only way I could move forward on making the piece. It wasn't an easy piece.”
”I'd like to make a little correction on the Haida totem pole. It is done by a Haida, a Haida artist myself from Haida Gwaii. At home, we have different reasons for different totem poles. Some are memorial, some are burial, some are showing off our crests and figures and who lives there. This one is a Haida pole done by a Haida. But the meaning is about the healing and the hope of the future of the peoples working together to create a future for our younger generations. I stand behind women in this fight because men seem to have [messed] it all up (and we have to deal with that). So for us, as people, living creatures on this world, this earth, it's the healing we ought to put together to make it right for everything that's left, all the living things. We have the power, it's in our hands today to make that happen. I'm putting my belief behind our younger people that are coming up strong. But in the end, we have to work together to make this all work.”
“Up on the top there, there's a canoe and a rowboat. That means moving forward together but separate. We're together, but separate, the same goal. The top is an eagle with the coppers, different colours, representing the people of the world moving forward. So I look forward to the future to see what we're going to do.”
“It's amazing. I'm not that old, but I've seen a lot so far and the world's changed so much in my time. I look at our elders, what they went through and the stories that they had. I'm so happy to be brought up in the era that I was brought up in, was amazing times and I survived it. But we all took it for normal. It wasn't really normal, but it was normal to us. It was amazing to see that and living. I didn't go to residential school. All my grandfolks, my great uncles, aunties and uncles, friends, they all went. A lot of them went. They told me stories, not nice. A lot of them aren't here today. A lot of them aren't here today. But in the end, we're going to have to tell these stories to keep that alive as our history as a people and moving forward.”
“We're gaining strength all the time. I look at Musqueam, this is their traditional territory, which we're all proud to be standing on, because we all know how much history is here. Our lands, we’re on our lands for over 14,000 years. Because of that, we learned about our seas and lands. So we know a lot about that stuff and how the fish act and what's coming and what's going. We shouldn't do this, we shouldn't do that. Our stories are there to teach us.”
“The salmon. Richard chose salmon as a piece that represents our people. In a sense, we're all here because of the salmon and the coast. The bountifulness of all that. I was quite happy when Richard made this design. I want to thank Richard for doing his part on making this happen. It was Rick Sparrow who brought us together. We're working on the pole here at the grounds of the UBC Museum of Anthropology. Rick would come by to visit. Maybe he'd come by. Lots of fun. I enjoyed him. We used to play basketball. In fact, I remember playing against Richard, who was a great sportsman when we were young men. He was in great shape and a great sportsman. I used to play with my cousins over in North Van Richard Baker and Lance. They're my mom's first cousin's children, married to Wimpy Baker.”
“We’ve got lots of connections like that with the people down here through marriage. I hear that the twins over here in the mountains were connected to the people down here through that. Directly connected to the people down here through that story, that had taken place many moons ago. So it is with great pride and pleasure that we do wander around on your traditional territory. We understand it as your lands and your traditional territory.”
“When our elder gentleman was speaking earlier, I met him some time ago and he was explaining to me about unceded territory. And I looked at him, he said, ‘it's not a thing to plant grass seed on.’ He was explaining to me what it meant. He was being tough. He's tough, but he has lots of wisdom, like our elders do. I see. Pays attention to everything. And we need that in our life to move forward. We need to move forward with great understanding.”
“So that wasn't on Michael Audain and the Audain foundation. That was on me. For not getting to you folks early enough. But I'm so happy Leona Sparrow got onto it and she fixed everything up in a good way, in a tough way, in a good way. And we're really happy to be still friends because we got lots of work to do for our future, and that means working together. We fight for our lands and our seas. We want our seafoods. Maybe we could start trading in the future. But thank you, everybody. I'm happy to be here with my wife and so happy that Michael Audain and his wife do such great things for this country in the art world. They keep the art world going in a good way. Thank you, folks.”
Next to speak at the podium was Michael Audain. Audain compared the university’s approach to Musqueam when he was a student at UBC 68 years ago to today noticing what a difference it is. He expressed pleasure to be able to celebrate the two artists. He spoke a bit about how the pole came into being. He concluding by thanking “each and every one of you for being witnesses today.”
MC Liz King Osadczuk then introduced “the next sneaker, ah, speaker. … I would like to invite Chancellor Point, [The Honourable xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl Steven Lewis Point, Chancellor, UBC] to make some closing remarks.”
“As it happens, I do have my sneakers on,” Steven Point said upon reaching the podium.
“Well, Larry,” Steven Point said, “you still got a lot of fire in there. My God, I was shaking in my boots.”
Referencing Victor Guerin’s comments, Steven Point said:
“I agree with the comment about reconciliation. You're right. When Europeans arrived and began building what they call British Columbia and Canada, First Nations had no idea what was going on.”
“The Musqueam are now standing up loudly telling the world this is their country. Haida have been doing that for a long time as well. In his heartfelt comments, Jim, it's a tremendous announcement that two days you now have government recognition from another government that you're a nation, something we've known all along.”
“I'd like to thank Michael Audain for being here. Michael and I met when I was the Lieutenant Governor. I took him by the hand into the drawing room and I showed him a piece that Bill Reed had carved, belonged to a couple of elderly ladies and they had had it up for sale. I told Michael, I need some money, Michael, to buy this. This treasure does not leave our province. Michael said, ‘how much do you want?’ He didn't say, what do we do? He just said how much? The Audain Foundation stepped in to save one of our national treasures, and the Audain Foundation does that. It's been doing that for some time and we need to thank him for that.”
“Richard, you've done a great job. What a great carving. It reminds me of a spindle whorl suĺsuĺtun in our language. The elders used to take that spinner and make dog hair, goat hair blankets for the chiefs, though only for the chiefs who wore the swuwqwá’lh blankets. And that amazing pole, Jim. Amazing breathtaking pole, I must say. Reminds me of the stem of the suĺsuĺtun that the elders would have put on their knee to spin that wool. And they made beautiful weavings.”
“You and I have to start making weavings together, my dear people. We have to start again, maybe changing that word reconciliation to creating new stories together. We can't afford in this day and age to pass on old conflicts to the next generation. We're far too divided by race, by gender, by religious affiliation, even from one generation to the next. We have to find ways of bringing our weavings together, just as you see here today with a beautiful example, we can work together and we have to remind this university its true place in the Musqueam territory. Continuously.”
“Whenever I go to meetings now, I hear that we are working and playing in the unceded traditional territory of the Musqueam. When I came to school here 50 years ago, I didn't hear that. We're hearing that now. All over this country, things are changing and they need to change. Change begins inside here, inside each and every one of us. And as we change our heart, we change our mind, we change our attitude. The world around us will also change, hopefully for the better, broader understanding, greater tolerance, a more complete education that we can provide to universities like UBC.”
“So I thank you all for coming.”
“Can we give Mike and Jim and Richard one more round of applause?Hope you’ll stay and hang out and take some photos with these gentlemen. This is a historic moment at the University of British Columbia. I for one, I'm going to be the first one to get a picture with these three gentlemen!”
“Thank you very much!”
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