Giant dreamcatcher in P.E.I. captures dreams of young Canadians

A giant dreamcatcher on display at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown celebrates the dreams of young Canadians from the 13 provinces and territories. It's also a dream fulfilled for one of the artists who created it.

'It's very big, it's very powerful, there's a lot of energy in this thing'

The giant dreamcatcher will feature 13 smaller dreamcatchers featuring the provinces and territories, with another in the centre, representing Canada. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

A giant dreamcatcher on display at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown celebrates the dreams of young Canadians from the 13 provinces and territories. It's also a dream fulfilled for one of the artists who created it.

In February and March, Indigenous artists Nick Huard and Watio Splicer travelled across Canada, teaching young people about the legend of the dreamcatcher and helping them create small dreamcatchers that would be woven together into one giant display.

Nick Huard (left) and Watio Splicer assembling the giant dreamcatcher in Memorial Hall at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"The dreamcatcher's first job is to catch all dreams, it filters them," explained Huard.

He is a Mi'kmaq Artist, born in Restigouche, on the N.B.-Quebec border. He lived on reserve in the Gaspésie before being sent to residential school.

According to Huard, the good dreams come to the dreamer from the feather, and the bad dreams stay in the web until the first rays of sunrise and they get destroyed. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

He has been making dreamcatchers for years.

"The good dreams come to the dreamer from the feather, and the bad dreams stay in the web until the first rays of sunrise and they get destroyed," said Huard.

"The reason why the dreamcatcher works is that it reminds you to pursue the dream the creator put in your heart."

Watio Splicer works with a group of young people in Summerside, P.E.I., making their own dreamcatchers that are now part of the giant one. (Submitted by the Confederation Centre of the Arts)

Smiling faces

The youth were taught how to make their own dreamcatcher and some even brought personal items to add to their creations.

"It's big for them to understand but when they start weaving the dreamcatcher, it's that eureka moment, when they figure out how it's made that is priceless," said Huard.

Almost 300 youth across Canada were taught how to make their own dreamcatcher and some even brought personal items to add to their creations. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

The giant dreamcatcher is part of a larger initiative by the Confederation Centre of the Arts called The Dream Catchers, supported by funding from Canada 150. 

As part of the workshops, the youth were also asked to share their visions for their future and the future of Canada.

"The whole thing was so emotional, every child has his dream and it's very special for him, they were all beautiful," said Huard.

Nick Huard spent years in residential school and says the dreamcatcher project is something he couldn't have even dreamed of during those years. (Randy McAndrew, CBC)

The giant dreamcatcher also fulfills one of his own dreams, something he was unable to do during his years in residential school.

 "When I was a kid, this was a total impossibility," he said.  

"We were even beaten to think of something like that and now I can give it to them."

Huard emphasizes that no animals were harmed in the creation of the giant dreamcatcher.

"That is reconciliation," said Huard.  

"To honour our spirituality and give us a chance to share our spirituality."

Another of the animal skulls representing a spirit keeper, at the heart of the dreamcatcher. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Powerful energy

Splicer is Huard's assistant and also his nephew and has travelled with him to all the provinces and territories.

"It was a journey and a half and I got to meet hundreds of people," said Splicer.

"Sometimes it was emotional."

Watio Splicer uses white ribbon to create one of the colours of the medicine wheel on the giant dreamcatcher. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The dreamcatcher they have created together also has significance for Splicer.

"It's believing, having an open mind and believing that anything that you want, you can have it," he said.

"It's very big, it's very powerful, there's a lot of energy in this thing." 

Each of the 13 dreamcatchers features a skull representing a spirit keeper from that province or territory. For P.E.I., it's a pilot whale. (Nancy Russell/CBC)