A panel carving by renowned Gitxsan artist Walter Harris is making its way out of Kitimat after four decades and back to his hometown near Hazelton.
Harris’ panel was commissioned by Ocelot Industries Ltd. in circa 1982 and was hung on the wall of its administrative building in an industrial site in Kitimat.
In 2011, the industrial site and the building came under the ownership of LNG Canada which is building a $40 billion facility.
LNG Canada decommissioned the administrative building in 2020 and offered to return the carving to the Harris family in Kispiox, near Hazelton. The Harris family has gifted the carving to the new Upper Skeena Recreation Centre in Hazelton.
The carving now hangs on the interior wall of the hockey arena in the recreation centre.
Harris, a hereditary Gitxsan chief, who died in 2009, was a much-honoured artist with several awards and recognition in his lifetime. He was an Officer of the Order of Canada, a recipient of a Governor General’s Award and has his artworks displayed at public venues the world over.
The particular carving in Kitimat, made from local red cedar depicted the front of a traditional longhouse and reflected Tsimshian cosmology.
The Harris family, along with community members, held a recognition ceremony on July 20, to celebrate the return of the panel. Officials from LNG Canada were also present.
In a letter to LNG Canada, Rodney Harris thanked them for preserving the artwork and returning it back.
“Thanks to all that were involved in the taking down and packaging of this large panel without any damage, it showed the respect you all had for dad’s art piece, and once it showed up in Kispiox, we had a large group of people watching and a few family members helping to get it unloaded from the transport truck,” wrote Rodney.
LNG Canada’s Indigenous and stakeholder relations manager Craig Hallden said they were honoured to have had the opportunity to host and safeguard “Mr. Harris’ magnificent carving, which holds so much cultural and historical significance.”