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Canoe paddles installed at Government House

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 10:21 PST, Wed November 23, 2022

Two canoe paddles honouring the achievements of the 2021 and 2022 British Columbia Reconciliation Award recipients were installed at Government House yesterday (Nov. 22).

The paddles were installed by Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and T'esóts'en, Patrick Kelly, a member of the award selection committee. The installation also marks the call for nominations for the 2023 BC Reconciliation Awards.

The BC Reconciliation Awards are a partnership between the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and the BC Achievement Foundation. The awards recognize individuals, groups, and organizations that have demonstrated exceptional leadership, integrity, respect, and commitment to furthering reconciliation or inspired others to continue reconciliation efforts. The inaugural ceremony recognizing the 2021 and 2022 recipients will take place at Government House in Victoria in the new year.

“As we launch the third year of the British Columbia Reconciliation Award, the image of the paddles resonates stronger than ever,” Austin said. “It is through combined effort that paddles move a canoe forward. I see this united strength in our past recipients and look forward to witnessing it in the 2023 nominations. I am deeply honoured to display the reconciliation paddles at Government House as a symbol of this ongoing commitment, and I encourage all British Columbians to nominate those whose incredible work toward reconciliation has made a deep impact on their lives or communities.”

The BC Reconciliation Award draws inspiration from the work of Steven Point, Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl, 28th lieutenant governor of British Columbia and a founder of the award. His hand-carved red cedar canoe, Shxwtitostel, currently on display at the B.C. Parliament Buildings, was created as a symbol of reconciliation, with the understanding that “we are all in the same canoe” and must “paddle together” to move forward.

“Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is about righting past wrongs,” said Cloy-e-iis, Judith Sayers (Hupacasath Nation), BC Achievement Foundation board member. “In order for it to be true reconciliation, Indigenous Peoples must define what reconciliation is and what is needed to move forward.

“Bridging the gap between the two worlds through the reconciliation efforts of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people builds the relationships needed for the journey. By recognizing the truths of past wrongs and showcasing examples of how to make things right, others will be inspired to follow.

"In its third year, the British Columbia Reconciliation Award continues to celebrate innovative and empowering ways to embark on this journey, designed and decided by Indigenous Peoples, allowing them to thrive while making the world a better place. We look forward to celebrating the 2023 award recipients."

In honour of this legacy, each years' recipients receive a print of a canoe paddle designed by the Emerging Artist recipient of the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art. The 2021 paddle was created by Kwakwaka'wakw artist Cole Speck, and the 2022 paddle was created by Dene and Carrier beader Crystal Behn. The ongoing series of BC Reconciliation Award paddles will be displayed in Government House.

“The sea monster has been carrying people through pre-reconciliation as it travels through the ocean,” says  Speck of his paddle design. “Now it is climbing out of the waves helping to bridge the gap toward reconciliation. No one has seen the sea monster for centuries, but now that we are working towards reconciliation, there is hope that we will see the sea monster once again."

Of her paddle, Behn says: “The traditional hand-smoked moosehide has a story. The moose was hunted, its meat fed many families. Tradition and knowledge were passed on from the hunt right to the art that was created from endless hours of preparing the hide. The beaded flower colours represent every Nation. The stitching that runs along the edge represents the mothers and grandmothers that stitched together their children's moccasins, many of those children did not return home from residential school. The red flower at the tip represents all the murdered and missing Indigenous woman, all our stolen sisters, the life givers. This paddle is bound together in the middle. My hope is that one day all nations will meet in the middle with understanding and compassion for one another. That all Indigenous Nations will be accepted and shown mutual respect.”

The nomination period for the awards will be open through Jan. 20, 2023. Nomination forms are available on the BC Achievement Foundation website (bcachievement.com/).

To learn about the 2021 and 2022 BC Reconciliation Award recipients: https://ltgov.bc.ca/priority-programs/the-bc-reconciliation-award.

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