Through the lens of emerging artists Cole Speck and Crystal Behn: paddles for the reconciliation journey 

Photo: Cole Speck, Reconciliation Paddle 2021

The British Columbia Reconciliation Award draws inspiration from the work of the Honourable Steven Point [Xwĕ lī qwĕl tĕl], 28th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and a founder of the award program. His hand-carved red cedar canoe, Shxwtitostel, currently on display at the BC Legislature 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. 

In keeping with His Honour’s inspiration and to commemorate the inaugural offering of the award in 2020, BC Achievement commissioned the recipient of the 2020 Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist for the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art, Cole Speck, to create a paddle design representative of his understanding of the reconciliation journey. Cole, a Kwakwaka’wakw artist, designed a paddle emblematic of his vision: 

“The paddle design represents the sea monster, one of the earliest stories of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. The sea monster has been carrying people through pre-reconciliation as it travels through the ocean. 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.” 

For each subsequent year of the BC Reconciliation Award program, BC Achievement is honoured to commission the Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist for the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art to create a paddle design showcasing their understanding of the reconciliation journey.  

Photo: Crystal Behn, Reconciliation Paddle 2022

Crystal Behn, the 2021 recipient of the Crabtree McLennan Emerging Artist designation created a reconciliation paddle using yellow cedar, acrylic, beads, moosehide, fish scales, and caribou hair.  As a Dene and Carrier artist, all of these materials are active components of her practice and the following exposé shares and defines her intimate experience: 

When I worked on this paddle, I experienced many different emotions. What started out as excitement and happiness to be given the opportunity to create and contribute to reconciliation, turned into negative emotions for me.  Reconciliation; 1. the restoration of friendly relations. 2. the action of making one view or belief compatible with another.   

What does reconciliation mean to me? It is a made up hope, an attempt at what colonizers would like to say that is being accomplished. This paddle represents everything reconciliation should be, the freedom to express the culture and tradition that many First Nations were denied. The responsibility of reconciliation is passed onto the children of the future if the lies embedded in Canadian history are not authenticated or brought to light. Why should an entire nation have to keep fighting for equality, the land and their treaty rights while having to face racism head on?  

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 women, all our stolen sisters, the life givers. Women are the strength in our families and communities, why are they being discarded at such an alarming rate? 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.” 

Soon, the two paddles will be installed in honour of the achievements of the 2021 and 2022 BC Reconciliation recipients at Government House in Victoria. Recipients will be presented with a limited-edition print at a ceremony planned for January 2023. 

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.

Join us at an art exhibition celebrating the artwork of the Carter Wosk and Fulmer Awardees  

A public art exhibition visually shares knowledge, celebrates artists and provides space for gathering and shared dialogue. Starting November 14, BC Achievement will be hosting an exhibition to highlight the artwork of the 2022 recipients of its two art award programs. 

Since 2006, the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art (FNA) program has celebrated the intersection of art and culture, while honouring First Nations artistic traditions. The program recognizes artistic excellence in traditional or contemporary visual arts by First Nations artists and aims to create an authentic space for community engagement, mentorship and storytelling. In this space traditions are passed onto younger generations and shared with a BC-wide audience. So far, the program has shone a light on 88 outstanding artists. 

Likewise, the Carter Wosk Award in Applied Art + Design (AAD) program has highlighted functional art which enhances day-to-day life for individuals while enriching our collective experiences. It celebrates British Columbians whose work directly contributes to the cultural and economic fabric of the province and drives innovation in functional art. To date, this award program has celebrated over 75 artists and designers! 

Highlighting the artistic skills of artists helps to advance the collective conversation around art in this province and serves as a unifying platform to share cultural history and artistic innovation with fellow citizens.  

BC Achievement will be shining a light on the 2022 FNA and AAD Awardees in part through a joint public art exhibition housed at The Roundhouse in Vancouver from Monday, November 14 until Friday, November 18. It will be open 9am to 10pm each day aside from Tuesday and Thursday when the exhibit will be closed at 2pm. 

Watch for the announcement of awardees of both programs later this month on BC Achievement’s website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn channels! And come and visit the FNA and AAD Art Exhibition and celebrate excellence with us! 

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change. 

The 2022 Indigenous Business Awardees have just been announced! 

Let’s raise our hands for the eight recipients who represent excellence in Indigenous business from around the province. 

The Indigenous Business Award (IBA) program honours excellence and focuses on the successes of Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs. The program offers awardees and their supporters an authentic space to showcase their achievements and build bridges between BC’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous economies. 

The awardees announced today are: 

Dark Arc Welding Inc., Dawson Creek, recipient in the Young Entrepreneur category 

dk Architecture, North Vancouver, recipient in the 1-2 Person Enterprise category 

Culture Shock Life, Alert Bay, 3-10 Person Enterprise category 

Warrior Plumbing, North Vancouver, 11+ Person Enterprise category 

M’i nuw’ilum Marina Inc., Sooke, Community-Owned 1 Entity category 

Sasuchan Development Corporation, Takla Lake, Community-Owned 2+ Entities category 

Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation Ltd., Williams Lake, Business Partnership of the Year category 

Chief David Jimmie, Chilliwack, Award of Distinction 

These awardees are representative of excellence in Indigenous business, not just for the practical day-to-day work they do and the communities they serve, but because their efforts are preparing the path for our youth and future generations through Thuyshaynum: preparing the path, directing the feet. 

“When we come together to celebrate Indigenous business achievement, we are also blazing a path for today’s youth and for the generations that will follow. The Indigenous Business Award program recognizes business achievement, honouring innovative ideas and new ways of making our economy more robust and more inclusive,” said foundation Chair, Anne Giardini. “Every year, the enterprises recognized with an Indigenous Business Award highlight ways we all benefit from an ongoing reconciliation of the practices of the past with the economies of the future.”  

Congratulations to each of the awardees on their successes and serving as inspirations to others.  

The awardees will be celebrated at the IBA Gala on November 29 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Ticket details are available at

Join us to honour the awardees! #IBAGala 

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.

Orange Shirt Day: The Hearts and Spirits of Our Children

Photo: The author’s grandmother, Slhu’muhw (rain) Edith Silvey

When my mother was in university studying the history of Indigenous people in Canada, I attended a talk by an author who created a chart of the generational effects of residential schools. As I was trying to place myself across the page into a certain category, I thought I was surely in the far-right side of the chart that listed 8th or 9th generation. However, to my surprise, I was in the second column to the left meaning I was second generation. And my journey of research began as I started asking some hard questions.      

I quickly learned that my grandmother attended the Kuper Island residential school. She was four years old when she was taken from her family. While she was there, she endured much of the brutal beatings that we often hear about. She left with permanent deformation in her hands due to being thrown down the stairs and not being permitted to see a doctor; along with the emotional trauma that would be passed down for generations.   

As the announcement of the unmarked graves started to unfold, I knew they would eventually reveal the number of children who were buried on Kuper Island. This hit close to home and the heart as I wondered how many of them are my family. How many of those little children were used to do government approved nutrition experiments, which ones were brutally beaten or were they all? How does one wrap their thinking around a small child who only knows one language suffering needles in the tongue? My heart sank with the confirmation of what elders have been telling us for generations. The unmarked graves that hold our aunties, uncles, and many others were finally being acknowledged.

Artwork: Grandmother by Satuts Stsuhwum Angela Marston

Despite the years of torture, my grandmother grew into a strong and powerful First Nations businesswoman. With five children and then her husband’s passing she instantly became a single mother. She ran an oyster lease during a time that it was illegal for Indigenous women to own or operate a business, but she did it anyways. She spoke five languages including Chinook, a trade language developed amongst businesspeople on the Coast. She will always be the definition of strength. It was her determination and her will to live that allows me to be here today.   

As we all take time to reflect on the horrific history and the meaning of Truth and Reconciliation, we look forward to building collaborative and meaningful relationships. As the original peoples of these lands, we take pause to honour and remember the children that survived and commemorate those who tragically did not.  

In our hearts we hold your memories, and we pray your spirits can finally rest in peace.   


In gratitude to Satuts Stsuhwum (North wind strong and clear) Angela Marston, guest blogger and Program Director of the Indigenous Business Award.

BC Achievement: Elevate Excellence. Share Success. Inspire Change.