Doorways to a New Beginning

Tseshaht artist, Tima-ah, Gordon Dick sits quietly as he describes the designs on the doors that welcome visitors into the new Tseshaht administration building. His belief in the future of Tseshaht is evident in every figure and story called forth by his diligent hands from this wood that was nourished by the same land as our people. Gordon seems to have an understanding of what we need as Tseshaht people to help us on our journey as we learn our traditions and language, and grow strong as Tseshaht. His story begins on the left side of the door with the flowing waters of our river, the Somass. This cherished watershed as willingly rendered food, resources for our economy, sites for our ceremonies, and recreation to generations of Tseshaht people. To the right of the flowing waters of the Somass, sea kelp represents our oceanic beginnings and roots in Barclay Sound. On the upper left is the moon which holds great significance for Gordon. He recalls knowing from a young age that the moon is important to our lives as Tseshaht people. The moon governs the timing for all of our ceremonies and preparations for hunting, fishing, and gathering. It also controls the tides which in turn controlled how we travelled for hunting, harvesting or relocating. Prominently displayed on the door is the canoe, our lifeline and main means of transportation. The canoe, itself brought to life by a carver’s journey, helped us to move freight from one village to the next, to hunt, and to gather resources offered by the sea, such as the whale swimming beside the canoe. Today, the canoe signifies our new journey into the future. On the prow of the canoe sits a young wolf inside a drum. This young wolf represents current generations of Tseshaht because we are young in the learning of our history, our language, and our songs. We are young in laying our foundation for the future. The wolf also reminds us of the need to preserve our language and our songs for present and future generations who sit in eager anticipation. A wind carrying the words of the Ancestor descends from the top right to the wolf. The Ancestor sends the voice of encouragement and love urging us to preserve our culture, our language, our songs, and our identity. The star inside the hand of this Ancestor is sent to guide us since we have always navigated by the stars and mountains. The next stories will be carved by the hands of today’s Tseshaht. The yew wood handles on the doors are replicas of the D-adze once used by Gordon’s great-grandfather, John Dick. Gordon has purposefully left the handles untreated, in their natural state, so that they may be worn and shaped by the hands of the Tseshaht people as they enter the new building. In this way, the journey of the Tseshaht continues as those in the present are shaping their future with guidance by the carvers of the past.

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