Sally Brown brushes the Gal'tam with hemlock.

Back in the paddle

Canoe rededicated after local artist takes up stalled project.

PORT HARDY—A project fifteen years in the making came to fruition last week as School District 85 staff and students were joined by community members for the rededication of a canoe.

Around 300 people attended the event, which comprised a brief history of the project, songs, a blessing ceremony and a feast to celebrate the relaunch.

The project was begun in 1997 by a group of artists and students, and the then-unfinished vessel took to the water for the first time when it was loaned to the Wuikinuxv people of Rivers Inlet to attend the Tribal Journey to Victoria.

The project later fell by the wayside until local artist and canoe builder Mervyn Child volunteered to step in.

Child, who took the lead in overseeing the complete overhaul of the vessel, was presented with a drum and drum bag at the event as thanks for his work. He was assisted on the project by renowned artist and carver Calvin Hunt as well as family, community members and former PHSS alumni.

The rededication ceremony saw the 52-foot Gal’tam — Long Face — blessed with eagle down and hemlock branches before taking students and SD85 staff on voyages around the bay. Fittingly, Child, who guided the project to completion, was helmsman for the voyages.

Accompanying the Gal’tam were two other examples of Child/Hunt carved canoes — the Kwakiutl style U’gwamalis and the Dzawana Upsup, a Nuu-chah-nulth style canoe — allowing all participants the chance to get on the water.

The event was introduced by SD85 District Principal of First Nations Programs Kaleb Child, who explained that the Gal’tam will become an integral learning tool across the District in coming years, and will play a key role in the Shared Understandings of the Kwak’wala-speaking Peoples course launching in the next school year.