W̱SÁNEĆ people have created and displayed art and sacred symbols of our culture throughout W̱SÁNEĆ territory since long before settlers arrived. The art that W̱SÁNEĆ people created was expressed in, and on, multiple mediums for many different purposes: intricately carved household objects, complicated mechanical ceremonial objects, woven Chiefs’ regalia, large carved and painted house posts, and innumerable other objects that are each an integral part of W̱SÁNEĆ culture. Each of these objects–whether used in private or displayed in public–was intended to express a distinctly W̱SÁNEĆ identity to all those able to see them.
However, with the worst years of colonialism, the Federal Government sought to erase this identity. The RCMP, churches, and other public institutions confiscated–and, at times, burned–W̱SÁNEĆ regalia sending W̱SÁNEĆ spiritual and cultural practices underground; museums–domestically and internationally–removed W̱SÁNEĆ art and territorial markers from W̱SÁNEĆ land making the land appear bare of our presence; and, settlers–out of misaligned curiousity or for profit–robbed W̱SÁNEĆ ancestors, taking their remains, their personal belongings, and their grave-markers. The W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council does not want the impacts of this history to be perpetuated into the future.
For this reason, the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council asks all government institutions, private companies, and individuals operating within W̱SÁNEĆ territory to help the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation in their efforts to revitalize W̱SÁNEĆ culture and re-establish a W̱SÁNEĆ presence on W̱SÁNEĆ lands.
To do so, the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council recommends the following actions:
- When considering the development of public-facing art, provide W̱SÁNEĆ artists the opportunity to submit proposals before a request for proposals is put out to the general public
- When developing a budget for public-facing art, include funding for an unveiling ceremony and the regular refurbishment of the chosen W̱SÁNEĆ piece
- When reviewing proposals for public-facing art, give preference to W̱SÁNEĆ artists creating art in the W̱SÁNEĆ tradition
- When assessing the work of W̱SÁNEĆ artists, do not use cost-estimate as the only rubric for proposal selection
- When working with W̱SÁNEĆ artists, reach out to the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council to co-develop interpretive signage about the meaning of the piece,
- W̱SÁNEĆ culture, W̱SÁNEĆ history, SENĆOŦEN place name information, and other relevant topics.
To help the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council achieve its goals, a list of W̱SÁNEĆ artists–each with a bio, a sample of work, and their contact information–is provided below. Please feel free to contact them directly if you are interested in their work.
If you have any questions, or are interested in broader discussions about W̱SÁNEĆ art, please feel free to reach out to the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council.
Chief Don Tom
Chief, Tsartlip First Nation
Chief Nicholas Claxton
Chief, Tsawout First Nation
Chief Tanya Jimmy
Chief, Tseycum First Nation