Indigenous artist Clayton Gauthier was honoured as the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) launched Nenachalhuya – The Cedar Plank Project.
Gauthier, who is Cree and Dakelh, will be carving cedar planks that represent all of the various and diverse northern B.C. First Nations.
Nenachalhuya is a Dakelh word meaning, “You have done us great honour” or “we are thankful for what you have done.”
Once completed, the 32 panels will surround the walls of UNBC’s Gathering Place.
“It’s a huge project but I know this young man can do it,” said Lheidli T’enneh Elder Marcel Gagnon during today's (Sept. 9) launch of the project in the university’s Canfor Winter Garden. “I want to say on behalf of our Elders form our ancestral territory we welcome you to do this project to bring our communities together. All of the Dakelh people will be represented through you.”
Beverly Best, the First Nations Centre’s manager of student engagement, says the cedar planks will represent community and students that come to the campus from afar.
“We want to make sure that all of the students who come to UNBC are represented within the Gathering Place,” said Best during the launch event. “Then the Gathering Place is a mirror of who you are as students and as community. When you go into the gathering place, it’s a safe space to be as an Indigenous student.”
For Gauthier himself, he says he is honoured and grateful to be a part of the project.
“I feel the best part that I’m going to get out of this is learning from other nations, learning about their art and their stories,” Gauthier tells PrinceGeorgeMatters. “This art is for our kids. That is what inspires me. Art is a passion I live with every day and I feel that following my passion is showing my kids how to live. My heart is full every day and these pieces are going to be here longer than I am and that is inspiring in itself. “
Gauthier will also be showing those who are interested in how he works and even how to carve as a portion of his work hours at the university are open to the community.
He will be working on campus twice per week in room 7-204 near the Canfor Winter Garden, across from security.
Gauthier will work independently from 9 a.m. to Noon Mondays and Thursdays, but people are welcome to observe from outside the room, which has glass walls.
Then from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m, everyone is welcome to join him to chat and learn while he’s working.
“When I’m here Mondays and Thursdays the door is going to be open for them to come in ask questions, for them to come and carve, I want them to be a part of this too,” says Gauthier, adding “To get the feel for the wood and to get the feel for the tools and have a better understanding of how much work this is.”
The art that Gauthier produces revolves around his traditional teachings that he has learned from Elders, the Spirit within and our Mother Earth.
Throughout his art journey, he has completed many logos, murals, drums, rattles, carvings, tattoos and digital art.
He’s also a published author of the children’s book, The Salmon Run.