The Royal Canadian Mint will officially launch a new $5 silver coin Tuesday night featuring a design by Cree artist Tim Whiskeychan of Waskaganish in northern Quebec.
Whiskeychan's design depicts a traditional spring goose hunt. It's the fourth and final coin in the mInt's limited edition series, and the first time a Cree artist from Quebec has been commissioned by the mint for a collector coin series.
"What an honour," says Tim Whiskeychan. "I felt very happy and also overwhelmed because this is the first time for a Cree person from James Bay to have this special privilege to design a coin."
The image is of a Cree hunter in a caribou-skin coat, kneeling in the shore grass, aiming his bow and arrow at two geese flying overhead.
The spring hunt is an integral part of traditional Cree life and Whiskeychan says depicting it on a collectors' coin is one way to share Cree history.
"To have my design on a coin, you're preserving the old ways and it has a link to our people as well. It's history recorded. I'm deeply humbled."
Whiskeychan's murals and logos are featured on schools in his community, and he exhibits his watercolours and drawings informally throughout the Cree territory of Eeyou Istchee in Northern Quebec. But he says having his design on a piece of Canadian currency seems more permanent.
When he found out the Royal Canadian Mint had chosen his design, Whiskeychan's first thoughts were of his late father who lived on the land and who was well-known throughout Eeyou Istchee for making decorative tamarack goose decoys.
"The first thing that came to mind was my late father Harry who had a great influence on my life as an artist," he says.
"I remembered the days when my dad used to tell me 'Never quit art. Pursue what you do best.' And this is where I got to be."
The official launch of the $5 commemorative coin takes place Tuesday night in Ottawa.