Nu chexw kw’átchnexw kwétsi sḵel̓áw̓?// Can you See Beaver? is a community-based research and public art project led by Gitksan Witsuwit’en artist and community organizer Jolene Andrew and produced by grunt gallery Project Curator Nellie Lamb, in collaboration with Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House.
The project is collaborative and based in community. It began with a conversation about a historical beaver dam that once blocked Brewery Creek near the spot where Main St and 14th Ave now intersect. This led us to wonder about the absence of such an important animal in an urban socio-ecological system and consider how the history of beavers in this landscape can inform our relationships to the land now and into the future. Throughout the project we will be contemplating the importance of keystone species like the beaver, whose knowledge and skills build dams that create wetlands, providing habitat for many other plants and animals. Nu chexw kw’átchnexw kwétsi sḵel̓áw̓? Can you see Beaver? is a reminder to take notice. The project looks to beavers and the other animals and plants in their communities as teachers and guides. It asks questions about obstruction and flow, what has changed and what has endured, and what we can learn from these histories in the ongoing and complex contexts of urbanization, colonization, and decolonization.
The project’s Squamish language title, Nu chexw kw’átchnexw kwétsi sḵel̓áw̓? asks, “Can you see the beaver?” We hope you will join us in opening our hearts and minds to beaver’s teachings. Starting in March 2021, we are hosting a series of knowledge sharing, field study, planning, and art-making events focused on the landscape, plant, and animal (including human) life in the area that is now known as Mount Pleasant and rooted in the Indigenous knowledge and art of Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), səl̓ilwətaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) storytellers, weavers and other urban Indigenous artists. Events are led by Jolene alongside artists, historians, scientists, storytellers, and knowledge holders and are open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members.
Further details about this project and upcoming events can be found at canyouseebeaver.ca
Image: Nicole Neidhardt.