Squamish carver to share his knowledge in paddle-making workshop | Squamish Chief

Squamish carver to share his knowledge in paddle-making workshop

Program aimed at youth to run this fall and include stories about trees

Squamish Nation artist Art Harry is leading a paddle-making workshop, called Portage this fall.

"The way I see it, it used to be our highway, the sea," he said. "It is one of the tools that we are real proud of."

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The paddle and the canoe are sacred, Harry added.

"If you have a workshop for the paddle, you give back some of the history," he said.

Harry was taught to carve paddles by late Chief Larry Joseph back in the early 1970s.

"I was a youngster at the time, a little teenybopper," he said, with a hearty laugh.

Harry took a carving night class under Joseph and the craft got into his heart, he said.

"I said to myself, 'I have got to learn how to do that.'"

His cousin, renowned artist Rick Harry also took him under his wing.

Art Harry has shared his knowledge with the students in Squamish schools over the years.

"It is not teaching, I call it sharing, sharing the culture," he said. "Because I don't own it and so I just share what I know. It is not like teaching it is something else."

He passes down to students what was taught to him such as in depicting a wolf or a bear that comes from the forest, there is green around the eyes; eagles and ravens take a blue and a darker blue is for salmon and whales.

Harry tells of running into the parents of some of the students he has done classes with and the parents telling him that the children had come home and shared what they had learned.

The paddles will be carved from red cedar, which lasts longer in the water than other wood, Harry explained, and likely take place at the Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival grounds.

Multidisciplinary Squamish-based artist Lenny Rubenovitch will also be sharing through stories his knowledge of trees.

The program, which will run for nine sessions spanning three weeks starting in September, received one of the Squamish Arts Council Community Enrichment grants.

The workshop is targeted to the youth but will welcome 10 to 15 participants of diverse ages and backgrounds to share stories and develop woodworking techniques and character.

"We both are passionate about trees and think they are a great example of strength and resiliency,"  said Rubenovitch of his collaboration with Harry.

The name of the program, Portage is a nod to the importance of support, Rubenovitch said.

"When you portage a canoe, you carry it over your head," he said. "We are trying to support each other, support stories, support our community and support other local initiatives."

Rubenovitch said he and Harry spoke with the Squamish Nation Elders last February to ensure they were supportive of the concept for the course, and they were.

In light of COVID-19, groups will be kept small and masks will be worn, he said. 

Later this summer there will be a question and answer session organized for those interested.

To find out more or get involved, call 604-849-1755 or email lennyruebnovitch@gmail.com.

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