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X W E M E L C H ’ S T N

James Harry Cineplex pole-01970.jpg

Xwemelch’stn - New public artwork coming soon (2019)


The story of place begins with the Capilano river. The riverbanks of British Columbia have always been home to Coast Salish people. We formulated our lives around rivers and Oceans. The salmon that swam up X̱wemelch'stn were of the utmost importance; its richness of nutrients and abundance in numbers fed our people for thousands of years. X̱wemelch'stn (Capilano River) has ancient origins and has been an integral part of the Squamish peoples lives since time immemorial.

Xwemelch’stn - Fast moving water of fish

Xwemelch’stn - Fast moving water of fish

C O N C E P T 

We as the Squamish people have always shared an interconnection with the land, animals and water. The life cycle of the salmon mimics the lifespan of the river. Everything around this cycle continues to shrink; the salmon, trees, and water. This piece serves as a reminder to protect and give back to the life that the land has given for thousands of years.

Part of my job as the artist is to take my teachings and pass down the stories from our elders. This work is a symbol of the resurgence of Salish art and the reclamation of space. As we move into the future our art will continue to evolve and grow, my goal is to integrate our culture into the proudest segments of our society.



This work mimics the shape of the cedars and firs that once occupied this land. Old growth trees are becoming increasingly difficult to acquire for carving, which led me to use metal as an alternative material to cedar. Through my years at Emily Carr I integrated this concept into my art practice and it has now become an integral part of my work. Utilizing modern materials while staying true to the visual language of Coast Salish design has been the core component of my art practice. This public art opportunity is a great fit for my continued work of shifting perspectives on Indigenous art.

The imagery depicted on the post are two salmon swimming in unison. There are eggs in between representing rebirth and the cycle of the salmons life. As a whole, the design follows the movement of the river.

I have designed the sculpture so that you are forced to move around it to read the story. This makes for a more bodily and visceral experience.

'X W E M E L C H ‘ S T N" - 3/8 Aluminum, LED Lighting, Polyethylene, Steel,

P R O J E C T 2 0 1 7 - 2 0 1 8



Port Moody house post project




Yellow cedar

Found only on the Pacific Coast of North America, the Yellow Cedar is at its best in the mountainous coastal forests of British Columbia. James prefers to use yellow cedar for smaller carvings as it holds small detail more over red cedar.  James sources his wood from the upper Squamish valley, often being supported by the Squamish Nation.


Red cedar

Red cedar is the foundation of our culture as it was used for dugout canoes, bentwood boxes, house planks, clothing, and many tools such as arrow shafts, masks, and paddles. The inner bark made rope, clothing, and baskets. The long arching branches were twisted into rope and baskets. It was also used for many medicines. James works in Red cedar when he has to work on larger totem pole projects.



Abalone shells are used for smudging ceremonies. They have also been used to highlight specific focal points in carvings.  Because of its natural aesthetic of blues and greens, James has strategically used it as a stark contrast against both red and yellow cedar wood. In James' artworks he has used abalone shell as a highlight in the eyes of the animals in his works.



Throughout the coast, Copper was formed into the shape of a shield.   Copper was often exchanged at higher values between chiefs at potlatch feasts. Coppers were particularly associated with the distribution of wealth at wedding feasts. First Nations along the coast used coppers as a marker and symbol of wealth, and some wealthy chiefs owned a dozen or more.



My father’s work has been recognized by the Squamish people and other Coast Salish nations and has made a significant difference provincially and globally in building community bridges.  The power of his work has created a path for me to follow. He has helped me to develop an awareness of the importance of seeing health and strength in diversity rather than division and conflict.


There is honour and responsibility in carrying on the teachings of my people. The example that my father provides has led me toward a deeply felt connection to the past and the future of First Nations people. I have been tasked with honouring the legacy of intense spirituality, as well as with acknowledging the burden of the travesty of colonization and its aftermath.  As a member of the younger generation, I am aware of the responsibility I have to acknowledge the damage that has affected indigenous peoples, to embrace the power and truth of Aboriginal traditions and to celebrate the beginning of reconciliation. 


My personal professional goal is to continually challenge non-Native and Native assumptions of what is traditionally, spiritually and environmentally ethical.  My goal is to create art that pushes the boundaries of First Nations cultural traditions. As a young First Nations person, I would like to honour and respect my traditional heritage.  As a contemporary artist, I feel the urge and the need to create something new and different.  I want to broaden the place held by Native art and culture in the world of contemporary art by using traditional and modern materials to create work that can speak to the integrity and power of traditional Aboriginal forms and shapes while challenging the audience to place indigenous art firmly within the art community at large. 

Like the Thunderbird of old I
shall rise again out of the sea; I shall grab
the instruments of the white man’s success
- his education, his skills, and with these
new tools I shall build my race into the
proudest segment of your society.
— Chief dan george
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