New Museum Exhibit Opens Featuring Kwakwaka’wakw Artist and Hereditary Chief Cecil Dawson – Campbell River Mirror

The Campbell River Museum’s new exhibit explores the impacts of colonization through the experiences of a family and an artist, Kwakwaka’wakw artist and hereditary chief G̱ixkastallasame-gi, or Cecil Dawson.

His contemporary works interpret this hurtful history and its continuing impact on our society today. His paintings, sculptures and drawings come to life through the stories he shares. It offers an Indigenous perspective on the history of this coast and its peoples.

What does it mean to stand in the gap? For Dawson, it’s about keeping a place for those to come, keeping his family’s position, prerogatives, songs, dances and history alive for future generations. They were attacked by the Government of Canada through actions such as banning potlatch and residential schools. Museums have played a role in this process of colonization, and they have an important role to play in reconciling with this past. This exhibition of Dawson’s work was developed in collaboration to bring together old pieces of family regalia that have been housed in museum collections, in Campbell River and in Vancouver at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology.

Dawson’s work does more than just shed light on a painful past.

Dawson says “we lost it all, but now we’re taking it back” and “like the rings on a tree, you can see the rough years, they look different, they left a mark, but we carry on to grow, we keep moving forward.

This exhibition, through the sharing of the experiences and perspective of an artist and his family, aims to critically examine our past and shed light on how we can move forward together into the future.

During the opening ceremonies, Chief Robert Joseph addressed the participants:

“I’m really proud of our leader (Cecil Dawson). I walked in this morning and thought “HOLY!” It just hit me. It is so beautiful. And powerful. And it will carry a message for a long time. So, congratulations to my nephew, congratulations to the Campbell River Museum for the transformation it has been undergoing for a long time. They wanted to help people who use this museum, including native people, to tell their own stories…

“And I thank Campbell River for supporting this kind of initiative, it has always been like this. I sat on the board of directors of this same institution a long time ago. And I’ve seen it grow to become, in size, one of the most powerful institutions in the province and probably in the country. Because he was not afraid of change. He was not afraid of inclusion. And so, we, we, chief, continue to do what you are doing. Be inclusive, be visionary. Bring our people together, bring us all together.

The opening ceremonies can be viewed on the Museum’s YouTube channel. You will also find several videos where Cecil introduces himself and talks about various topics. The exhibit will be on view at the Campbell River Museum until November 6, 2022. For more information, please visit the Museum’s website at www.crmuseum.ca.

RELATED: Campbell River Museum’s First Stop for Sacred Journeys Exhibit

The Royal BC Museum is phasing out galleries pushing the colonial narrative

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