The sculpture has returned to artist Gitxsan’s hometown of Kispiox after four decades in Kitimat
A panel sculpture by renowned Gitxsan artist Walter Harris leaves Kitimat after four decades and returns to his hometown near Hazelton.
Harris’ panel was commissioned by Ocelot Industries Ltd. circa 1982 and hung on the wall of his administration building at an industrial site in Kitimat.
In 2011, the industrial site and building became the property of LNG Canada which is building a $40 billion facility.
LNG Canada decommissioned the administration building in 2020 and offered to return the sculpture to the Harris family in Kispiox, near Hazelton. The Harris family donated the sculpture to the new Upper Skeena Recreation Center in Hazelton.
The sculpture now hangs on the interior wall of the recreation center’s hockey arena.
Harris, a Gitxsan hereditary chief who died in 2009, was a highly honored artist who received several awards and honors during his lifetime. He was an Officer of the Order of Canada, recipient of a Governor General’s Award and his works are exhibited in public places around the world.
The distinctive Kitimat carving, made from local red cedar, represented the facade of a traditional longhouse and reflected the Tsimshian cosmology.
The Harris family, along with community members, held a July 20 recognition ceremony to celebrate the panel’s return. Representatives of LNG Canada were also present.
In a letter to LNG Canada, Rodney Harris thanked them for preserving the artwork and returning it.
“Thank you to everyone involved in tearing down and packing this large sign without any damage, it showed the respect you all had for dad’s artwork, and once it appeared at Kispiox we had a large group of people watching and a few family members helping unload it from the transport truck,” Rodney wrote.
LNG Canada’s Director of Indigenous and Stakeholder Relations, Craig Hallden, said they were honored to have had the opportunity to welcome and protect “Mr. Harris’ magnificent sculpture, who has so much of cultural and historical significance.