Feature Story

Indigenous art installation reflects Secwépemc significance

Artist Don Clarke’s pictographs to be displayed in the Great Hall of the Sun Peaks Centre
 | November 3, 2021
A rendering of what the art in the Great Hall should look like.

The Little Shuswap Lake Band (LSLB) has been working with Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) to install Indigenous art into the Great Hall of the Sun Peaks Centre, to acknowledge the area’s significant Indigenous importance and history.

Councilor Aaron Arnouse of LSLB said the band has been working with Sun Peaks in a number of ways for decades, but their relationship has improved in the past few years. Arnouse said he is happy to see their partnership has led to the new installation.

“When they started taking their steps to implementing more First Nations things up in the Sun Peaks community, we jumped on board with them right away,” Arnouse said. “It’s good to see that Sun Peaks has taken these steps to move forward in working with First Nations within Secwépemc territory.”

The art display includes 11 pictographs throughout the Great Hall. LSLB held a meeting and originally decided on 10, but the Chief later added one more during the blessing ceremony.

With input from the LSLB, the municipality chose artist Don Clarke to paint the selected pictographs and a river to run through the hall.

“I felt deeply honored to be included in the equation,” said Clarke. “To be a part of anything that honors the community of that people group to me is an absolute thrill.”

LSLB wanted the pictographs to be community and family-oriented to reflect Sun Peaks as a family environment. Clarke said the pictographs portray that well.

“It basically is a depiction of Secwépemc life from a community standpoint, and includes all of those different things that are central to life,” he said.

The Chief is at the centre of the pictographs, with a hunting ground and a fishing weir on either side of him. Above is a mother with her children below. There are also animals that hold significance such as coyotes, eagles, mule deers and owls.

“There’s an explanation for each one of those,” Clarke said. “Different people have written what they believe those pictographs were communicating. I think one of them is even a young woman seeking a vision, which is some kind of spiritual guidance.”

The painted pictographs and river are now in place, but Clarke said the art installations are not entirely complete. There has been a proposal to put the traditional Secwépemc name under each one of the pictographs to commemorate their culture and language. Clarke would then include a legend to also explain each one in English so it’s accessible to everyone in the community.

Clarke said being a part of this project that acknowledges Secwépemc history means a lot to him.

“I’m ashamed that my country has done in the past some of the things that they’ve done,” he said. “So many wrongs have been done to that particular people group, and it hasn’t been made right.”

Clarke has created art with LSLB in the past, including painting stones at the Talking Rock Golf Course and pictographs on the sidewalk to Quaaout Lodge in Chase, B.C.

He said he feels honoured to carry on traditions within the culture through talking rocks and pictographs that could educate future generations. Clarke said he finds it fascinating to look at talking rocks from hundreds of years ago and the meaning they hold, knowing ordinary people like him could have painted them.

“That part of their life included communicating to others, perhaps at that time, but also into the future,” he said. “Maybe they didn’t realize these are gonna be around for a long time, and people are going to be looking at them and wondering what they are. But to me, that’s fascinating. That’s history. That’s beautiful.”

Community members and visitors can drop by the Sun Peaks Centre at the top of the village to view the art installations, or check out Clarke’s other work on Instagram @konakahuna777.

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