Lt.-Gov. helps to carve canoe for people of B.C.

The lieutenant-governor of British Columbia has turned the shed behind Government House into a carving studio so he can work on a dugout canoe that will be a gift to the people of B.C.

The lieutenant-governor of British Columbia has turned the shed behind Government House into a carving studio so he can work on a special project.

Steven Point is putting the finishing touches on a handmade dugout canoe, just like those his First Nations ancestors used for generations.

"You've got to understand, in the old days, there weren't no highways, there were no airways, there were only canoe ways. So when you got old enough, you didn't get a car, you didn't get a horse, you got a canoe," said Point, who was sworn in as lieutenant-governor in October 2007.

In his career, Point has been a chief, a lawyer, a judge and chief of the B.C Treaty Commission, but his skills as an artist have been restricted to carving a few small objects, such as spoons.

That's why he's turned for help to one of British Columbia's best-known carvers, Tony Hunt, who is famed for his totem poles.

Slowly they've transformed a log Point found on the Victoria waterfront into a canoe in the shape of sea monster with a shovel nose and scales on the sides.

"'Cause I'm not really a carver, right?" he told CBC News. "I'm just a guy that found a log on the beach and decided to make this canoe."

Point has been working for nine months on the project, which he intends to give to the people of British Columbia.

He was inspired by the huge log that may have washed over from the other side of the Georgia Strait.

"I was standing on the log down below here, below Government House, when I noticed that somebody had started to carve a canoe, because it was tapered at both ends," he said.

Canoe log could be 500 to 800 years old

Point said it reminded him of the canoes his people use to fish for Salmon on the Fraser River. He is a former leader of the Sto:lo Nation.

"What's happened is that somebody — I don't know how long ago — was carving a canoe and either the carver died or the canoe drifted away. My brother who is a canoe builder came and looked at this. He thought that the canoe log, this log, could be anywhere from 500 to 800 years old," he said.

It took months to finish digging out the canoe. Now he and Hunt are working on the finishing touches, including oiling the canoe to highlight the carvings.

Point has given the canoe the name Shwiteetostal, which means a safe place to cross the river.

It's meant to be a bridge between cultures, he said, adding that he plans to gather a group of aboriginal leaders to launch the canoe in the new year.

"I've had this belief for some time that if people see our world like a canoe — like we're together — we're not individuals in separate canoes," Point said. "We're in the same canoe it's called the Earth, the world. It's like we're travelling through space. We have to try and work together, paddle in the same direction. Maybe we can accomplish something."

With files from CBC's Jeff Davies