“Walk on, walk on, walk on, on the breath of our grandfathers”
These words of the Gitksan follow the Wsinaaxhl, the songs sung beside the dead. They proclaim the strong sense of continuity, the belief in the constant reincarnation of thought, deed and man; the knowledge of the presence of yesterday in today, of today in tomorrow. In this spirit is offered the arts of ‘Ksan, inspired by the past, born in the present, bequeathed to the future.
The mezzanine floor of the Roval Bank of Canada’s main branch in the Royal Centre in Vancouver houses an extraordinary work of art – the largest single work of native design ever undertaken by the North Coast Indians of British Columbia. This is the ‘Ksan Mural, 120 feet long and 8 feet high, a magnificent frieze carved in Western Red Cedar and intricately painted by hand. Nine sculptured panels – three massive central designs flanked on each side by three subsidiary panels – form an entire wall in the branch and create a dramatic focal point for the spacious banking mall.
Raven, deer, and human. Raven slays the deer and uses its skin to disguise himself so that he may steal fire from human, represented in lower left and right corners
Raven travels through a hole in the sky represented by the circle in the centre of the panel to steal the sun. The sun is depicted by the circle clutched in the claws over the box which contained the sun. Other creatures depicted in this panel are the salmon, above and behind Raven, and the seal, under Raven’s wing.
Raven and the bullhead fish are represented. Raven is hungry and attempts to capture the fish which struggles to escape. The clutching grasp of raven is the cause of the misshapen bullhead of the fish.
Commissioned by the Royal Bank in 1972, the ‘Ksan Mural took five carvers three months to complete. The carvers of the ‘Ksan, all of Indian heritage, are Chief Walter Harris, hereditary chief of the Fireweed Tribe of the Kispiox, Chief Alfred Joseph of Hagwilget, Earl Muldoe, Ken Mowatt and Art Sterrit.
The tiny Indian village of ‘Ksan nestles at the confluence of the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers in North Central British Columbia. This is the place of the Gitksan . . .the people of the River of Mists, – master carvers. ‘Ksan has become a modern day museum and craft village that stands where Indian villages have stood for centuries, possibly for as long as 4000 years.
The museum recalls the long and colourful history of the Indian people of the Hazelton area. The craft village is a centre for the creation of new and beautiful art in the great tradition of the Northwest Coast Indians.