Manitoba woodcarver creates pandemic-inspired piece featuring 7 sacred teachings

The piece Rick Hall is currently chipping away at is inspired by the global response to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Rick Hall, who is originally from Cross Lake First Nation, says his new carving is about enduring COVID-19

The pandemic has inspired the creative work of Rick Hall, a woodcarver originally from Cross Lake First Nation, and his wife Lori Hall who is from Manigotagan. (Submitted by Hall family)

Rick Hall is combining his lifelong experience in the bush and his artistic side to create a wood carving to mark the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a logger for more than two decades, the woodcarver originally from Cross Lake First Nation used his knowledge of working with trees, training in building log homes and background in sketching and painting to connect with his First Nations traditions.

The piece Hall is currently chipping away at is inspired by the global response to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"I'm doing a carving that is symbolic to what's happening in the world today," he said during an interview with host Nadia Kidwai of CBC's Weekend Morning Show.

After years of working closely with trees, Rick Hall, who is originally from Cross Lake First Nation, figured he would try his hand at carving to connect with his traditional ways. (Submitted by Hall family)

His latest creation is a depiction of the Earth on top of an eagle with six other animals below to represent the seven sacred teachings.

The traditional teachings are important to many First Nations, which explain how core values are all interconnected.

Hall said he hopes the piece has an impact across different communities dealing with the ripple effects of the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

"[The idea is] getting people, not only Indigenous people, to recognize and see the significance of everything that's carved on there."

Rick Hall is expressing his spirituality through wood carvings such as this eagle, which represents love, during the pandemic. (Submitted by Hall family)

Hall's wife and collaborator Lori said the idea behind the design is powerful.

"The seven sacred teachings on one pole," she said. "To me, it doesn't get better than that."

Each teaching has an associated animal: the eagle represents love; wolf represents humility; bear represents courage; bison represents respect; Sabe or bigfoot represents honesty; turtle represents truth and beaver represents wisdom.

Rick Hall's work-in-progress includes the seven sacred teachings, which he says could help people learn how to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic and prosper afterward. (Submitted by Hall family)

"That's what we can get through and represents everything that's needed to get through this," he said.

"The message there is if everybody lived that way, with all the teachings there, it would help the Earth, the world, to get by and prosper."

'A team effort'

Hall said he picked up the craft 12 years ago after he saw a man carving wood in a parking lot in Thompson, Man.

Ever since then, the couple have been improving their skills at their home at Hillside Beach, near the southeast shores of Lake Winnipeg.

"It's just been a team effort pretty much from the get-go," Lori said. "We spend a lot of time out there together doing carvings."

Rick Hall and Lori Hall have taken up the art of wood carving during the pandemic. (Submitted by Hall family)

She said she is most proud of a 31-foot totem pole Hall built in their yard that is based on those guiding principles. She said that piece is set to be erected outside the general store in Grand Marais, just south of their home along the lake. 

She helps him with painting, waxing and preserving the wood, and recognizes her husband takes a lot of pride in it.

"But I think the most significant meaning is the traditional teachings and the culture that has the biggest impact on his carving," she said.

Now that he is done the carving portion, Rick and Lori say they just need to add preservatives and other final touches before the pandemic project is fully complete.

This 31-foot totem pole will find a permanent home outside of the general store in Grand Marais. (Submitted by Lori Howard)

With files from Nadia Kidwai