Blog June 2024

The Royal BC Museum (RBCM) has been fortunate to walk alongside and learn from local First Nations, specifically the ləkʷ^ əŋən people (pronounced le-KWUNG-gen) in the design and construction of the upcoming PARC Campus.  With the groundwork and foundations nearing completion, and the vertical elements such as the mass timber walls beginning to take shape, our focus is now on the final touches – the public art!

Under the guidance and direction of ləkʷ^ əŋən  leadership and our Indigenous Liaison Officer (ILO) team members, we have followed cultural protocols to commission artworks on behalf of the two host Nations, the Songhees Nation and the Esquimalt Nation.

Nation leadership directed the project’s ILOs to invite the Marston family of Coast Salish master artists to produce artworks on behalf of the host Nations. The intent behind creating significant artworks on the exterior of this important building, is to signal a welcome to ləkʷ^ əŋən Territory and to recognize the ləkʷ^ əŋən in relation to Coast Salish communities throughout south Vancouver Island.

In keeping with proper protocol, the request to the family of artists was undertaken in a good way, by attending in person. A delegation made up of representatives from RBCM and the project’s host Nations travelled to Stz’uminus Territory. The Marstons accepted the Nation to Nation protocol to help celebrate Coast Salish art.  The Marstons expressed that they felt honoured to come to ləkʷ^ əŋən Territory to share their common and rich art traditions, stories and teachings.

L to R  Florence Dick (Project ILO, Songhees Nation) Jane Marston, Luke Marston, Angela Marston, John Marston, Rob Thomas (Project ILO, Esquimalt Nation)

The location for this new facility comes with a deep history as it sits on unceded ləkʷ^ əŋən Territory, in an area stewarded by the Teechamitsa and Stsanges families, who had the rights and responsibility for managing its resources, such as fishing and seasonal hunting of the migratory birds. All ləkʷ^ əŋən people shared and used the land and lagoon in common. The area is still known and referred to as Teechamitsa.

The Marston family embarked on a journey to learn about the history with several visits to ləkʷ^ əŋən Territory, touring the construction site in Colwood and spending time in the RBCM’s collections, the Province’s archives and the Indigenous collections.  They emerged with an approach that will truly honour the ləkʷ^ əŋən people. 

Three distinct pieces will be produced: Mother Jane Marston and her daughter Angela will create a mural capturing many iconic elements of the Coast Salish story.  The image will be digitized and integrated in the fabric of the building, in a metal façade. 

Sons Luke and John will each create distinct artworks that will be installed near the mural, allowing the pieces to collectively tell a compelling and complementary story. 

The artworks will be installed during the final stages of the  construction. A ceremony will be held to unveil the artworks and to thank the artists for honouring the ləkʷ^ əŋən people with their good work and intentions.

For more information on the Marston Family:

Jane Marston is a Coast Salish First Nation Artist, a mother of seven grown children, and a proud grandmother. She is well known for her knowledge of Coast Salish religion, and was also an instructor at the Women’s Studies Program at Vancouver Island University – Nanaimo and holds a Masters Degree in Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria. Jane works in a variety of mediums, but she is most celebrated for her carving. Her main inspiration comes from traditional Coast Salish art inspired from nature.

She started carving under Simon Charlie in 1984, and she continued to work with him until April 2005. She used to make a variety of pieces including totem poles, ceremonial rattles, dolls, talking sticks, dancing sticks, paddles, and ceremonial masks.

It is Jane’s belief that traditional symbols are extremely important and necessary, but that we must dream new dreams and invent new art that speaks to us in our present day.

Her children have websites with more information on their artworks:

Angela Marston – Salish Weave

Luke Marston Official Website – Contemporary Coast Salish Artist

Stz’uminus Artist – John Marston