Calvin Charlie-Dawson/Ts’kanchtn, Chase Gray, Jonas Jones
Curated by Faith Sparrow-Crawford, Salia Joseph & Jade George, HOST Consulting
Led by curators Faith Sparrow-Crawford, Salia Joseph & Jade George, Other Sights has commissioned a series of temporary public artworks by artists Calvin Charlie Dawson/Ts’kanchtn, Jonas Jones and Chase Gray for a project that centers the values, relations and visions of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) artists.
Presented on the exterior and environs of The Blue Cabin Floating Artist Residency, the artists have devised works that address the people that meet on the Fraser River to labour in fishing, tourism, and recreation, visitors to the area, and residents of the recent developments that line the shore.
Calvin Charlie Dawson/Ts’kanchtn’s work, Protect the Salish Sea, is installed on the river side of the Blue Cabin’s deck house. The work depicts the foundational species of coastal ecosystems: a spawning salmon and roe to greet the fishing boats that travel past daily. Chase Gray’s work holds up the eagle, the salmon, and the two-headed serpent and the wooly dogs that signal xʷməθkʷəy̓əm territory, history, and weaving traditions. Gray’s work is installed on three sides of the Blue Cabin. Jonas Jones’ work installed on two exterior walls of the deck house uses the circular format of a spindle whorl, setting two orcas in a curving composition.
The works were installed cumulatively over two years, culminating in a final presentation of all artworks in simultaneous display. Public events allow for conversation with the curators and artists, with a ceremony to mark the departure of the Blue Cabin to a new territory.
The Blue Cabin is a highly visible presence on the water, drawing the attention of thousands of viewers, and capturing the public imagination. Sovereign Waterways offers the opportunity to explore, through face-to-face encounters, an enriched and deeper understanding of the ongoing presence and the history of these nations on these lands and waters. With artworks that – through their temporary, rotating display – respond to changing conditions, this project speaks to the pressing need to support the encounters and conversations that will further important dialogues about public spaces on unceded territories. Beginning with Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh artists, Sovereign Waterways acknowledges the presence of many other nations who have worked and lived along the estuary, including Kwantlen and Tsawwassen nations, and that the river has been and remains integral to many other nations who use the waterways for travel, sustenance, and ceremony including Katzie, Stz’uminus, Semiahmoo, Sto:lo, and Quw’utsun people.
Jonas Jones/TsuKwalton comes from the village of Átsnach (Tsleil-Waututh) with strong bloodlines running from Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) as well. He is grateful for teachers such as Ses Siyam (Ray Natraoro), who continues to provide essential guidance and insight on Coast Salish laws of art. A system that is passed down from master carver to apprentice. He is honoured to be practicing this craft, as this foundation of art and way of life has been running through his blood for thousands of years. For Jonas, “To live and breathe a little piece of the old people our swa7am (ancestors) is truly a beautiful thing.”
Chase Gray is a queer xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and Tsimshian artist and father, living and working in Musqueam. Born in Nanaimo, Gray moved to the mainland in early childhood. Chase is Musqueam and Tsimshian on his mother’s side and settler European of unknown descent on his father’s side. Recent projects include: street banner designs for Davie Street Banners; painted mural designs for the Vancouver Mural Festival and the Chilliwack Mural Festival; Breathe, an augmented reality mural in downtown Vancouver, and a warm-up Jersey design for the Vancouver Canucks.
Calvin Charlie Dawson/Ts’kanchtn is a young indigenous artist from North Vancouver, BC. As a descendant of the Squamish and Kwakwaka’wakw nations as well as the Sto:lo nation, he works mainly in the Salish style and occasionally in Northwest coast/Kwakwaka’wakw traditions, drawing inspiration from mentors such as Jason Taylor, Andy Everson, Beau Dick, and William Wasden. On his Salish side, he is inspired by Stan Greene and Victor Harry and is an apprentice in carving and canoe building under master carver Ray Natraoro.
Established in 2020, Host Consulting is comprised of three Indigenous women from Musqueam Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations. Host works with and within their communities and different municipalities towards creating a place that reflects who MST peoples are through public art consultation, decolonial dialogues and discussions, and project management and liaising. Salia, Faith, and Jade provide specific and valuable knowledge and insight on the arts and working with MST nations in Metro Vancouver, the unceded, occupied, and traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səlilwətaɬ peoples.
Salia Joseph is active and dedicated within her Sḵwx̱wú7mesh community, with many years of experience as the Executive Director of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim (Squamish language) and culture non-profit Kwi Awt Stelmexw. This gives her a strong cultural foundation, deep connections with Squamish community members. She has extensive project management, outreach, public engagement, and advocacy experience. Salia combines her experience in Critical Indigenous Studies with professional exposure to curation in galleries and public art exhibitions. Salia has also worked with the BC Arts Council reforming Indigenous Arts funding and making it more accessible to community members. She is dedicated to negotiating the social, economic, and physical obstacles that prevent Indigenous artists from being celebrated and centered on their land.
Faith Sparrow-Crawford is a member of the Musqueam Indian Band. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with an undergraduate degree in Critical Indigenous Studies. Faith worked as an executive assistant at Aquilini, supporting the team working on partnership development with MST Nations. She then joined the Musqueam administration as the Self-Governance Community Coordinator, responsible for aiding in the creation of a Musqueam consultation based on community knowledge and engagement. Faith also co-founded Salish Locations Inc., a film location liaison company that works to create more for Indigenous peoples on their own land. Faith has extensive community engagement experience with Musqueam, and experience with city planning, public art engagement, and consulting. Faith is an advocate for sharing the voices and stories of her people on their territory and throughout the world.
Jade George was raised in Tsleil-Waututh and Chehalis communities. She works as a language instructor and advocate for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, teaching classes ranging from kindergarten through to the university level, in partnership with Simon Fraser University. Jade is deeply involved in her community and culture. Her family are cultural leaders in the Tsleil-Waututh community. As a weaver, singer, and language speaker, Jade has deep insight into her community and how to navigate the traditional laws and practices of the People of the Inlet. Her connections allow her to negotiate and plan cultural ceremonies, blessings, and openings, and to seek the guidance of elders for solving difficult issues, while also creating new solutions that respect old ways. Jade comes from a family of master artists, and is embedded in a long history of cultural work involving all three Host Nations.
Other Sights Project Lead Producers on Sovereign Waterways are Barbara Cole and Lorna Brown.
This project is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the British Columbia Arts Council, and the City of Vancouver. Other Sights thanks the Blue Cabin for hosting these artists and their works at Imperial Landing in Steveston over 2022-2024.
Blue Cabin Partners: C3 (Creative Cultural Collaborations) & grunt gallery
Image Credits: Images of Calvin Charlie-Dawson/Ts’Kanchtn’s work and Chase Gray’s work installed on the residency deckhouse and on the Cabin at the Blue Cabin Floating Artist Residency. Photos by Sunshine Frère and Jordan Schinkel, 2023.