Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Park, Visitor Info Center:
The story of the volcano eruption, Nass Valley
"I listened to the elders speak while hearing my ancestors speak through them, and also through me as I interpreted the story of the eruption into design"
I was honoured to meet with the Simoogits and Sigidimhanaaks (chiefs and matriarchs) of Wilp Baxk'ap for a small and intimate gift giving ceremony and a blessing of my mural.
The Visitor Info Center resides on the ango'osk (territory) of Baxk'ap so in order to proceed with the design and painting of I needed to first obtain the permission through cultural consultation from Baxk'ap to work on their territory and to interpret the story into design.
"There are just no amount of words to describe my feelings when I practice my culture, when I adhere to proper protocols, when I use the medicines gifted to me from the Creator, and when I create the art of our ancestors. Art is the language of our ancestors and the more I create the more I hear them speak and the more I am finding my own voice as an indigenous woman."
Click photos to reveal a snippet of history
Around 250 years ago, the Tseax volcano crater erupted, spewing lava across the Nass Valley.
Two children were playing down by the river, tormenting the pink salmon. They stuck burning sticks into the backs and watched them squirm around with the smoke rising from the backs. An elder happened upon the children laughing at the struggling fish and warned them to not upset the balance of nature or the Creator would respond, to which they ignored. The ground then began to rumble and shake with smoke and flames coming out of a mountain. The people ran and fled to no avail, with the lava flowing at over 50km/hour and the toxic fumes killing 2000 of our ancestors.
Gwax ts’agat (the super being) emerged from the mountains to block the lava flow by extending his long nose.
The main figure is Gwax ts’agat and within it are ancestor faces to represent our lost ancestors while the figures in the tongue representing our animal ancestors.
The hands are of the elders who warned the children to stop disrupting the balance of nature. The thumbs connect to backs of the salmon while doubling as the burning stick. Inside the salmon, the tail is representative of the volcano cone with the spines representing the smoke and flames.
The bear on the door is the ayuukh (history) of the bear’s den tied to the ango’osk of Baxk'ap.