Simon Fraser University – Black Eagle Canoe & #Karamazovreadalong

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.

Black Eagle Canoe

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.

About Black Eagle Canoe

From the Signage

Black Eagle Canoe, 1987
Bill Reid
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.

73 Thoughts

    1. It will be quite an adventure. Thanks for following along. I LOVE that canoe and visit it every time I visit SFU campus. Soon, the bagpipers will be practicing again and I will hear them in the background.

      Liked by 4 people

  1. This is a simply marvelous canoe, Rebecca. We saw some amazing carved canoes when we were in New Zealand in 2016. The artworks and effort in these canoes was inspiring. I am looking forward to following your latest readathon. I finally finished Gone with the Wind and am now listening to a splendid book about the Celts and the Romans. After that, Divine Comedy.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you for joining me at Simon Fraser University. There is so much history captured in this great canoe, a reminder that stories are told in art. Every since Liz told me about her Divine Comedy readalong, I have been researching different translations. I discovered that Dorothy L Sayers translated The Divine Comedy, which she felt was her greatest work. My father thought highly of this writer. And then when Paul Andruss said that is was a very good translation, I gave myself the gift of her translations. Looking forward to comparing notes after the #Karamazovreadalong.

      Liked by 4 people

    1. There are so many wonderful stories and symbols embedded in this remarkable crafts – knowledge, community, regeneration. My spirits lift every time I visit Black Eagle. I am so glad you joined me on Burnaby Mountain.

      “I consider myself one of the most fortunate of men, to have lived at a time when some of the old Haidas and their peers among the Northwest Coast peoples were still alive, and to have had the privilege of knowing them.” Bill Reid, in the introduction to The Raven Steals the Light, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1984

      Liked by 3 people

    1. I am delighted that you traveled from across the world to meet up with me on Burnaby Mountain. Art continues to flourish in Haida society – large wooden carvings like totem poles, Chilkat weaving, and ornate jewelry. There is a new expression of called Haida manga that I want to look into more closely. I continue to learn and learn and learn.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. So glad art continues to flourish in Haida society. It was also fascinating re the wood being so old. There’s a abso ancient ‘canoe’ –I use inverted commas cos it is so old, probably prehistoric–canoe carved from a big tree trunk in our museum here! Amazing to think of.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. The original canoe, Loo Taas (Wave Eater) was carved from an 800 year old cedar log. There were two replicas of Loo Taas which were made out of fiberglass: Red Raven and Black Eagle. It was the Loo Taas that carried the ashes of Reid in 1998 to his final resting place in the Haida Gwaii.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Dear Rebecca,
    Dina and our dear Master read “The Brother Karamozov” at school as a classic example of a sophisticated psychological novel. Our Master read all Dostojewsky novels during his studies of literature. But he found “Anna Karenina” by Lew Tolstoy the more interesting text of the great Russian novels of that time.
    Great canoe.
    With love and big hugs from sunny Norfolk to our dear friends in Vancouver
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I have never been on a readalong before, Klausbernd. I usually read books as a solo event so this is going to be a grand adventure. Frances just finished reading Anna Karenina this past year and she has decided to join us on our readalong, although she read The Brothers Karamazov a few years ago. I knew you would enjoy the Black Eagle and the symbolism associated with this Haida art. Sending many hugs and much love back to my dear friends The Fab Four of Cley.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. I can’t wait to follow along with your Brothers Karamazov reading! The two cultures you feature side by side with this blog post are just two of so many cultures suffering oppression but who continue to remind us of their rich heritage. The First Nations, reminded daily of the indoctrination schools’ abominations and the Russian people who suffered as their literature and religion were also oppressed by powerful institutions and ideologies. Both peoples suffered genocides. Beware ‘progress’ and ‘building better’ as someone will undoubtedly pay a heavy toll. No culture is immune. Let’s celebrate others as well as our own! Beautiful setting for your new adventure!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. How very well said, Mary Jo. No culture in immune. “Progress” is an interesting word because it can mean progress to enlightenment or progress to alienation. It is a choice that we all must make on a daily basis. You reminded me of a passage from Embers, One Ojibway’s Mediations by Richard Wagamese:

      “We approach our lives on different trajectories, each of us spinning in our own separate, shining orbits. What gives this life its resonance is when those trajectories cross and we become engaged with each other, for as long or as fleetingly as we do. There’s a shared energy then, and it can feel as though the whole universe is in the process of coming together. I live for those times. No one is truly ever “just passing through.” Every encounter has within it the power of enchantment, if we’re willing to look for it.”

      Looking forward to the #Karamazovreadalong!!! So glad you will be following!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Hummmm…. I’m tempted to join the fray and read the book along with you. You have always been an inspiration and this might be one of those times! I always like to follow where my sister leads … you gift me with your enthusiasm and verve for embracing life! So many things that I have done have been as a result of your encouragement … and reading a book that is recommended as the best book of all time by Freud should be on my bucket list. I’m not sure that I can keep up with a chapter a day but I look forward to following the three of you on Twitter!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Oh Sarah, you just made my day! I’m the one who has to keep up with you on reading. You are miles ahead of me. Looking forward to having your tag along, but I have a feeling, I’m the one who will be playing catch-up with you. Sending much love! You can find the book on Kindle, Kobo and the library.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you very much, Rebecca, for showing us this gorgeous canoe by Bill Reid and the importance of craftsman, artists and, of course, of old trees!
    About two years ago, I have seen the “The Karamazov Brothers” at the theatre and had in mind to read it, but now that I have seen it, it makes me a little bit afraid!!:) I hope, however, that you will publish your reading sessions on your blog, which I prefer to twitter.
    All the best for what you intend to do.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you for joining me on top of Burnaby Mountain. I feel a quiet tranquility when I visit Black Eagle. The #Karamazovreadalong will be an adventure for me – the first readalong for me. Just looking at the size of the book does bring a quiver of apprehension, but I know one that I am involved in the story, I will be carried away. I will be writing more about my experiences on OTR Book Club blog.

      “The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Paul – I’m so excited. Just received my Dorothy L Sayers translation of The Divine Comedy. Thank you so much for your comments that it was an great translation. Will keep you posted…

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Thank you for sharing these wonderful informations with us. Oral history of around 10,000 years.makes you shiver.
    The canoe now is indeed so very beautiful and I wish I could see it in real life and study each symbol.
    Do you know, the age of these great trees also makes an enormous impact. A good point for our fast living society. Altogether, your post makes me feel me feel the nearness and also grandeur of our world.
    May we cherish it.


    Liked by 4 people

    1. I am delighted that you joined me at Simon Fraser University. I agree – oral history has a profound influence on our current time. I am grateful for the stories that are being preserved in art and in symbols. I share your hope – may we cherish it. I am looking forward to our ongoing conversations.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Where would we be without our stories, Dave, without our writers, poets, artists? Cultural traditions and heritages bring feelings of belonging and security, of homecoming. I am looking forward to the #karamazovreadalong to explore the rich heritage that comes from Russian Literature. I am ready for that amazing ride that you have promised in your comments. Thank you for joining me on Burnaby Mountain. I’m already starting to collect quotes!!!😀 “This is my last message to you: in sorrow, seek happiness.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky

      Liked by 2 people

  7. The canoe is magnificent!! Wow! Love!
    Okay, Rebecca, that’s a scary looking book! It’s just so thin.
    I’m sure I’ll be popping by to find your progress, but when you are reading, I’ll be drawing, sewing or art hunting.
    Thought of you BIG TIME as I walked by the AGO.
    There was a sidewalk installation, a big Van Gogh head.
    You know those portraits where the eyes follow you wherever you go? Well, this is 110 up on that. His whole face follows you. I’m going to send you some video of me walking by it! You will love it!!!!!
    I’ll send it later! It’s time to make dinner. I just got home! {{hugs}}

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am looking forward to the video!! How wonderful to see a huge head of Vincent Van Gogh. I can only imagine how the piercing eyes and whole face following you as you walked past. I am thrilled that you will be following the progress of this readalong. And I will be tagging along with you on your drawing, sewing (a great conversation) and art hunting. Sending many hugs.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Got the hugs! They sailed without hitch through the construction zone!
        Sent the video. I hope it worked. I’m going to upload it to Vimeo so I can post it!

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Wonderful creation! To me, there seems to be a bit of tension between the object and its environment. Interesting that they chose to site it there, juxtaposing the organic material of the craft with the severe concrete architecture.


    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am so glad that you joined me on Burnaby Mountain and for your comments on the tension between the object and its environment. You reminded me about how Simon Fraser University came into being and the young architects that changed the dynamics of this university. To begin, there was a competition The design chosen was that of a young UBC architecture professor, Arthur Erickson, and his colleague Geoffrey Massey.

      “Erickson’s design was regarded as innovative in several key aspects. Its mountain top location inspired Erickson to reject multi-story buildings, which he felt would look presumptuous. Instead, Erickson turned for inspiration to the acropolis in Athens and the hill towns of Italy, where the mountain was incorporated into the design itself. This concept is evident in many aspects of the university’s design. For example, the manner in which the buildings are terraced to remain in harmony with the contours of the landscape and the emphasis upon the horizontal rather than the vertical expansion of the buildings themselves.” For more on the story, which I know you will enjoy check out this link:

      Thank you so much for your comments and visit – very much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, Julie. Bill Reid was a remarkable artist. He was born in Victoria.His father was American William Ronald Reid Sr., and his mother, Sophie Gladstone Reid, was from the Kaadaas gaah Kiiguwaay, Raven/Wolf Clan of T’anuu, more commonly known as the Haida. I understand that when was he was in his early twenties, he visited his ancestral home of Skidegate for the first time since he was an infant. It was a turning point for that was when he reconnected with his Indigenous identity. It is a moving story.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Magnificent…! Interesting contrast with the choice of today location and the ancient cultural influence carving, Makes for an unforgettable picture image of the cultural variety and differences of our world. Vivre la différence!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for you comments, Jean-Jacques. I love meandering through Simon Fraser Univerisity campus. When we drive up the long mountain road and then come in sight of the university, it feels like we are seeing the acropolis in Greece, which was a main influence. Arthur Erickson and Geoffrey Massy’s architectural design was picked out of 71 submissions. This is from the SFU Website:

      An “innovative aspect of the design was its rejection of the traditional separation of faculties and departments into individual buildings. In emphasizing the universality of the university rather than the specialization of knowledge, Erickson wanted to facilitate interdisciplinary work and a closer relationship between faculty and students. To this end, the design incorporated buildings which would house several departments as well as classroom space. This measure satisfied the practical requirements of both students and faculty by reducing the travel time between classes, as well as fostering an intimate learning environment.” Check out this link for more info.

      Just recently, SFU welcomed the announcement of First Peoples’ Gathering House. Check out this link –

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Aren’t you in for a wonderful time! I love that life takes us on new journeys when we least expect it; and they are, generally, the most treasured times. I feel a little excited for you and will be watching out for updates.

    Like Jean-Jacques (above) I was struck by the contrasting imagery garnered by the location of the Black Eagle Canoe. Such diversity of thought and culture evoked by one image.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I just reread this post again, for actually about the third time. I should have commented earlier, however, I am glad I didn’t because now I know just how many enjoyed your interesting comments about history, The Canoe at Simon
    Frazer University and the read along. I am looking forward to this experience with, it seems, a quite a few others.
    Until then, thank you, from your Mom, very proud of you! ! (I like the photos that include the canoe)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Frances – I am delighted and excited that we are going to read The Brothers Karamazov together. I have never participated in a readalong before so am pleased that Liz organized this event. I have a feeling that we will be involved in many readalongs. Thank you for always being the best support and encouragement over the years.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This is an exciting journey you are on Rebecca, so beautiful! The canoe is amazing ! I so enjoyed the video. Enjoy The Brother’s Karamazov, that’s quite a reading challenge. Dostoevsky a brilliant writer. Many hugs to you🤗

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am only 2 days away from the start of this adventure – my first experience with Dostoyevsky. I am excited, Holly and a little intimidated by the length, but as Liz said, we will start with chapter 1 on July 27, 2021.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am looking forward to following this adventure and I have to admit I am green with envy :).
        Enjoy dear Rebecca, I hope you have a splendid experience! Lots of hugs coming your way!

        Liked by 2 people

You're invited to join the dialogue!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.