I am on location at Simon Fraser University, situated on Burnaby Mountain. I have come to visit the Black Eagle canoe, caved by the great Canadian artist, Bill Reid, assisted by Guujaaw, Tucker (Robert Brown), and a dedicated team of carvers.
In September, Simon Fraser University is opening their doors orchestrated within a planned safe, equitable and supportive return to campus. But now, the campus is quiet waiting for students to return. I am alone with this remarkable Great Canoe of the Northwest Coast, which represents a history that can be traced back over 10,000 years.
This is the place where I chose to tell you about my adventure that will begin in a few days. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky has been on my “To Be Read” stack of books for several years but I have hesitated, waiting for the right moment. Then serendipity arrived in the form of an e-mail message from my blogger friend and book aficionado, Liz Humphreys from Leaping Life, announcing that she was organizing a #Readalong of The Brothers Karamazov to coincide with the 200th year anniversary of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s birth. The stars aligned when Elisabeth Van Der Meer, from A Russian Affair, agreed to join the party. Liz, Elisabeth, and I are inviting you to join us on this reading adventure.
This is your invitation to join us as an invited guest.
From the Signage
BLACK EAGLE CANOE
Black Eagle Canoe, 1987
Fibreglass, wood, metal Simon Fraser University Art Collection
The Great Canoes of the Northwest Coast First Nations
Based on their centrality in some of the earliest oral histories in the region (which can be traced back over 10,000 years), the canoe is arguably one of the most important physical manifestations of Northwest Coast culture.
In addition to being a means of transportation, food collecting and commerce, the canoe is also a spiritual vessel, which garners great respect. The hulls are constructed of once-living trees that survived centuries and sustained the lives of innumerable birds, insects, mammals and other plants. Blessed at each step of their transformation and hardened by the forces of fire and water, Northwest Coast canoes have come to represent an entire region of diverse cultures. These magnificent craft are also vessels of knowledge, as they represent the skill and precision of craftsmen and carvers who transformed mighty trees into seagoing vessels without the tools or technological advances that are relied upon today.
The Northwest Coast canoe nearly disappeared in the 20th century, but experienced a period of regeneration in the 1980s. These canoes now symbolize the cultural regeneration of many First Nations as they work to retain and rebuild following a period of systemic oppression and rapid social and technological change.
Bill Reid and the Haida Canoe
Bill Reid (12 January 1920 – 13 March 1998), an acclaimed Haida master goldsmith, carver, sculptor, writer and spokesman, was one of Canada’s greatest artists.
Throughout his career Bill Reid expressed great admiration for the Haida canoe and what it represents visually, symbolically, and culturally. For Expo ’86, assisted by Guujaaw, Tucker (Robert Brown), and a dedicated team of a carvers, Reid carved Loo Taas (Wave Eater), a 50-foot canoe born from an 800-year-old cedar log, the first of its kind on the Northwest Coast in nearly 100 years. Reid went on to make two full-scale fiberglass replicas of Loo Taas. and painted them to represent the main social groupings of the Haida. He called them the Red Raven and the Black Eagle
In September 2011, Simon Fraser University received a landmark gift of art from the Bill Reid Foundation. The gift consists of 158 works of art, including 112 masterworks by Bill Reid including the Black Eagle canoe.
It is with great pride and gratitude that SFU is able to bring the Black Eagle canoe to Burnaby Mountain and share its significance with the broader SFU community. At its new home, the Black Eagle remains a symbol of knowledge, community, and cultural regeneration, and will continue to educate people of the visual, symbolic, and cultural significance of these majestic vessels.
The move of Black Eagle to the Burnaby campus was part of SFU’s 50th Anniversary legacy project. The canoe’s journey from the collection of Canada’s national museum, to downtown Vancouver, and finally to SFU, was arranged by George MacDonald, founding Director of the Bill Reid Centre at SFU. This remarkable journey, spanning more than 5 years, was made possible due to the dedication and generosity of Charles and Gayle Pancerzewski.