British Columbia

New Vancouver art exhibit explores Indigenous land and water rights

A new multi-media art exhibition in Vancouver explores questions of Indigenous jurisdiction and land rights.

'We really see the destruction that is happening in our territories.'

An image from the exhibition Hexsa’am: To Be Here Always running until April 7 at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery on the University of British Columbia campus. (Nabidu Taylor)

A new multi-media art exhibition in Vancouver explores questions of Indigenous jurisdiction and land and water rights.

Marianne Nicolson is a member of the Dzawada'enuxw First Nation in Kingcome Inlet on B.C.'s central coast. She worked with more than 10 other artists there last summer using film, video, social media, weaving, animation, drawing, language and song to create an Indigenous perspective on environmental rights.

Hexsa'am: To Be Here Always is now open at the University of British Columbia's Belkin Art Gallery.

"I wanted to create a project that would include my community, and help them to have a voice regarding these kind of very heavy political issues that we were facing," Nicolson told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn. 

The exhibit aims to explain the Dzawada'enuxw First Nation's lawsuit to extend Aboriginal title to the ocean in order to fight Marine Harvest Canada and Cermaq Canada fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago, a group of islands located between Vancouver Island and the B.C. coast. 

'We find that this massive resource-extractive economy is detrimental to us and to the land," says artist Marianne Nicolson. Her photo (above) can be seen at the Hexsa’a̱m: To Be Here Always exhibition. (Marianne Nicolson)

'We really see the destruction'

The Dzawada'enuxw First Nation has protested fish farms in the community for years over concern for local salmon, shellfish and eulachon species. Nicolson says the fish farms in her nation's territories have been affecting their traditional fishery and lifestyle. 

"From our perspective we have jurisdiction over those lands that we have never given up.... By living in those places, we really see the destruction that is happening in our territories," said Nicolson. 

She says the exhibition frames issues about Indigenous jurisdiction, land and water in a way that journalism or political protest in the streets do not. 

"What has become so important in the continuing generations of our people as First Nations is the health of the land and the health and wellbeing of our people.... We find that this massive resource-extractive economy is detrimental to us and to the land," said Nicolson. 

Hexsa'am: To Be Here Always is open until April 7 at UBC's Belkin Art Gallery.

Listen to the full interview here:

A new multi-media art exhibition in Vancouver explores questions of Indigenous jurisdiction and land rights. 6:21

With files from The Early Edition