Skeetchestn Indian Band, in cooperation with the Canadian Ministry for Women and Gender Equality have officially launched a significant sculpture project led by artist Vaughn Warren of Kamloops, B.C. Warren will be creating for the Band a cedar sculpture honouring and memorializing murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ+ individuals.
A press release received last week from the Band states, “The intention of the MMIWG and LGBTQ+ Memorial Sculpture Project is to create a sculpture in a central location on the land of the Skeetchestn Indian Band to honour missing and murdered women, as well as LGBTQ+ individuals. Artist Vaughn Warren has been commissioned to facilitate and design the Project, in conjunction with SIB members, staff and referred businesses. The project will be coordinated and executed in the period of Aug. 1, 2019 to September 2020. The desired outcomes of the Project are: Awareness, education, recognition, memorialization, stopping the cycle, and healing. Art is a powerful tool for commemorations, helping to bring forward personal stories of colonial violence. Art as commemoration bears witness to injustice, recognizes human dignity of victims and survivors, and calls institutions, systems and structures to account”.
Gilbert Smith Forest Products Ltd. of Barriere, B.C., has graciously donated a massive red cedar log for the sculpture. The log was officially gifted from GSFP on Friday, Oct. 11, at their mill’s log yard in Barriere with a number of Skeetchestn Indian Band Elders and representatives in attendance.
GSFP President Greg Smith stated the wood is from the Adams River area near Tum Tum Lake and is a Western Red Cedar. Asked what he thought the value of the giant log would be, he replied “priceless”.He also noted that due to the logs great age “it has seen a lot of climate change”.
GSFP staffers, Nicole Huber and Aidan Coyles, took time after the presentation to count the rings on the log, as each ring marks a complete cycle of seasons, or one year in the tree’s life. The rings totaled an amazing 669 years!
Artist Vaughn Warren said he is “very excited” to be able to see this project come to reality.
“I wanted to do my best to make something really beautiful, to try to bring attention to the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women, girls and LGBTQ+ individuals,” told Warren, “I don’t want it to be somber or sad, I want to design a piece that shows resilience and strength to this issue.”
”I have been stoked about this issue, and it is a great project to raise awareness, create discussion, and heighten the issue,” said Warren, “I feel honoured to be able to do this, and I am very excited about this giant beautiful solid piece of world class cedar wood.”
Skeetchestn representative Reva Choursine commented on GSFP’s gifting of the ancient log, “We are truly humbled and can’t wait to start.”
Consultations and gatherings of the artist, SIB staff and Skeetchestn Elders and other members to gather information and ideas for the sculpture design will be finalized in the coming weeks. Warren will create the piece in Skeetchestn Indian Band’s Public Works Facility over the next 12 months, with the finished works being installed at the Skeetchestn Big Sky facility on Highway 1 near Savona, B.C., in September 2020.