Beau Dick, Northwest Coast ArtistSep 19, 2014
Beau’s eyes and calm voice light up when he tells the story of Raven, the trickster whose teachings are very important to the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast.
One morning Raven woke up frustrated and confused. He was lonely and did not have someone to talk to. So he flew to the beach and sat down on a piece of drift wood. He started talking to a rock. After some time Raven noticed that the rock wasn’t responding to him. He got very angry and started punching the rock. When he saw the blood trickling down the rock, Raven lifted up his fists in victory. That’s when he realized the blood was coming from his own fist! This was a defining moment for Raven; he realized that he was only hurting himself by venting and lashing out in anger. Raven appreciated the lesson he had just learned so he bowed and thanked the rock. He then flew off and had a wonderful day.
Beau says we often act like Raven when we are angry or frustrated but even when we feel like this we need to care for each other. That is why it is crucial to reconcile. For Beau, reconciliation means “to reconnect with the Creator, no matter what religion you follow; to reconnect with Mother Earth and our responsibility to protect it by living in harmony with our fellow beings; and most of all to reconnect with each other as human beings.”
Beau believes that reconciliation is about acknowledging and accepting the truth. There are many layers and issues. Beau says “one truth is that our oceans are in crisis: overfishing, marine pollution and climate change”. Another truth is that we are on unceded territory that was taken away from Indigenous peoples through deliberate actions by the government, including the use of infectious disease to “annihilate the population on the coast and solve the Indian problem”. The Haida nation population went from an estimated 14,000 to less than 600 by 1863. The high standard of living of that civilization was crushed. The survivors were forced into submission and became underprivileged. How do we reconcile with this painful history? Beau’s answer is “if people would start realizing the truth of the injustice and what we have endured, then we are that much closer to reconciliation. When the truth is recognized it has a healing power.”
When the Idle No More movement emerged, Beau performed the copper breaking ceremony in front of the British Columbia Parliament Building in Victoria and Canadian Parliament Buildings in Ottawa “to bring attention to the social injustices and the attack on mother earth”. Copper is a symbol of truth, justice and balance. Breaking it is a reaction and a challenge; restoring it is reconciliation. Beau believes “it’s just not a First Nations issue anymore; it involves all of us together, all across the world”. Reconciliation is about truth and unity. He says “I am happy to carry the truth and reconciliation message, we are all in the same boat, we are all one: Namwayut. I am hopeful.”
For more information: