Artist Statement – Underneath Main and Terminal and extending back towards present-day Clark Drive existed a biologically rich lagoon and marsh area that was used by the Tsleil-Waututh, Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nations since time immemorial. The area was covered over to make room for Industry and the CPR railway. The attempted erasure of the space by the colonial forces of the time was thorough and it continues to be built upon today. When looking at some of the public art in Vancouver and other cities we often see a romantic depiction of industrial beginnings and labour. What existed before is often covered and ignored. Knowing that my work will live in this space temporarily I feel it is important to acknowledge its history as well as its present-day. Vancouver is built upon unceded land, sacred sites, complex river and stream systems, hunting and cultivated gathering grounds. It is easy to get lost in the feeling of permanence that urban structures hold. The areas we walk, drive and live upon have place-names and a history of lived experiences.
I have lived in Vancouver on and off for around 17 years. Since moving here I have been trying to understand my relationship with this place. I am of mixed Coast Salish ancestry (Klahoose and Sliammon) from my grandmother Agnes Pielle, as well as Wuikinuxv and Kwakwaka’wakw from my grandfather Johnny Hanuse. As a youth I learned that my Grandmother’s Nations were historically unified with the Nations here and visually our iconography shares links. The relationship between Nations experienced rupture as a result of colonization. Visually it is important for me to work in continuum with my ancestors. It is also important for me to note that these images do not represent the space they will temporarily live upon, but reflect a relationship and respect for the land and water that my ancestors carried. I strive to continue in this mode of reverence for the spaces we come from and live upon. I also want to recognize my place as an uninvited guest in this space and continue to gain further understanding of it in my time here.
An important part of the process in making these pieces has been listening. I have been in conversation with Skwxw’u7mesh artist/knowledge keepers T’uy’tanat (Cease Wyss) and her partner Xuuyaa, as well as other respected community members in the lead up to installing these pieces. I am grateful for their generosity of time and guidance.