Centennial Progress-Wet'suwe'ten Family Home-Updated

Working on a quilt that celebrates the history and development of a community in British Columbia cannot be complete without the recognition of the first indigenous people who called the Bulkley Valley their home, their territory.

I'm talking about our Aboriginal neighbors, the proud Wet'suwe'ten people, who without their peaceful acceptance, the Town of Smithers would not be here today.

These lovely people are the original inhabitants of this country. The Wet'suwe'ten Nation still populate a large area from the modern day communities of Hazelton to Burns Lake and beyond, they live, fish, go to school and are growing as a nation.  The modern day name of Wet'suwe'ten really means "People of the Wa Dzun Kwuh River" and different spellings of this name, history and so much more, can be found on Wikipedia's site here.

The elders of the Office of the Wet'suwe'ten, who have an office building in Smithers, graciously gave me permission to use their logo in the Smithers 2013 Centennial quilt. 

You'll read about the activities of these vibrant and kind people.
 My interactions with the Wet'suwe'ten people have always been productive and amusing. I realize how strange our western, European customs must be for them to witness as we go through our lives. We live side by side. In fact, my home property is within the Wet'suwe'ten nation and I have many friends who are Wet'suwe'ten and I'm proud of that connection. I trust it and want to improve our connectedness, through this event.

Visit their official site Office of the Wet'suwe'ten

These are photographs of the photos in the book, Smithers Swamp to Village, written by R. Lynn Shervill. I have loaned a copy from the Town of Smithers. I thank the work of R. Lynn Shervill on this project, otherwise, I'd  have little access to our history since our local museum has begun charging fee's for research done in the local Museum archives. I  think charging for simple photos for a project like this short sighted, and is counterproductive to good community relations.
This brings me to a lovely development. I'm really proud to have been the recipient of a great idea. 
Charrine Naziel Lace of Moricetown is a bright eyed, wonderful kind woman who suggested that a block be made depicting the original people in the town site of Smithers. I have worked, researched and designed a part of the quilt to include this scene.

It all started here.

This was Charrine Naziel Lace's idea for a block. I loved the idea instantly, but then came another revision. I've become even more adaptable as this project goes on. I suggest to anyone else thinking about a Centennial Project like this, please credit this blog for coming into a new area by including individual art pieces on canvas in a quilt. I takes loads of patience and endurance as the changes keep coming in waves. I thank Linda Stringfellow, Perry Rath, Anne Havard, Nicole Tessier, Martha Wertz and Todd Lace for their inspirations entrusted to me. 

I carry on with time passing as if a ticking clock counts down the time left for completion.

The photo above is Charrine's father, shown  here at a local mine in the early days of mining in Smithers. Aborginal people have adapted and prospered, but many improvements still need to come.

I hope that my artwork of this welcoming people can do justice to their part of the story.

 I  began with a simple sketch on muslin, then began adding, shaping, cutting and rethinking the whole process as I went. Its not easy, providing that creative expression, I so dearly enjoy from the art of quilting. I glued down the simple pieces at the beginning, then a bright idea  happened: I remembered fusible webbing for the remainder and I must admit, fusing is much easier and allows for instant results.

This scene will depict a rough log home, moose hide on the doorway, only one window for smoke to escape and fresh air to get inside, the roofing is also rough log slabs, sometimes with several layers to shed the rain and snow" This type of housing according to Charrine was very common at the time Smithers started up. 
For more information on housing, visit here.

I'm not by any means an expert on what an early home of a Wet'suwe'ten family would look like, but I have interpreted the pioneer/primitive spirit of Aboriginal families around the time that the valley was visited by Col. Charles S. Bulkley, who scouted the new telegraph line for the Western Union Telegraph Company. I trust the inspiration of Charrine.

Many things have changed in the valley since then, some good and some  bad. We know the truth of our Canadian History in terms of residential schools, for one thing.  I wanted to honor the unique, indigenous people who were here, living happily, when suddenly white people began being seen within the Wet'suwe'ten territory.
I understand the Town of Smithers is built on a swamp. It must have been drained at some point. But our first home 1st. Ave had the most wonderful, rich, peat soil of the swamp. We had fantastic garden on that property. The  best soil I'd ever seen.

 I used glue, fusibles, fabric, thread and hand threads to create the scene with a light hand of respect. Straight machine stitch in combination with varying lengths of zig zag. I think of Nadia and what would she do? How would she recreate the scene in cloth?

I'd love to know for sure, if I have the scene in some sense of realism. Is it correct? The entire quilt is a work in progress. It calls me to wake with delight in the middle of the night. It speaks it own unique language. I've always worked on quilts and they do speak to me, they tell me when their done!

The roof begins to take shape. Then onto the trees..... it goes. A lot more work is to be done here.

I know that Asian, Italian, European, Brits, Scots and many others came wandering into this special valley. Many came with dreams of new gold and ore mining sprang up, forestry companies 'found' trees to cut, haul and sell. Money was being made in the valley and it caught the attention of the BC Government.

"In finally realizing the potential of the valley, the provincial government designated 24,000 acres on the east side of the Bulkley River as its first settlement area in the province. The designation, made under terms of teh B.C.'s new Land Settlement Act, included existing farms, soldier's holdings and previous Boer War scrip, accounting for about 8,000 acres. the remaining 16,000 acres were to be divided inbot 160 acre farms, thereby accommodating up to 100 new families." quoted from Smithers Swamp to Village by Lyn R. Shervill.

When I read this book, I begin to see the invisible story inside the story of Smithers. Much has been done in the past to reflect this change to the countryside and culture of the Wet'suwe'ten nation. I see this having made progress and threats that potentially place us all at risk, like pipelines bring us closer together in collaboration across the very countryside we all hold dear to our heart. Smithers Town Council has done much to build bridges between white and Indigenous people, this continues...

I attempted to show how approachable and friendly I continue to find Indigenous people. 

This is my week on the Centennial Quilt.

Thanks for leaving a comment! :)



  1. Your quilt is absolutely beautiful, and thank you so much for giving respect to the aboriginal people of Smithers. I think you have done a great honor to the town and the people.
    Bravo and keep on quilting!

  2. Thank you so much Laughs too loud,
    I'm working on several things that become one soon on the quilt. Its very exciting, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment :)

  3. I have no idea as to why I am only seeing this now (4 yrs later) could be I did but it didn't stay in my memory bank. But I love how you wrote this. Thank you for your words. I got teared up to see my father with my sketch. And my Great Grandparents David and Madeline Dennis poured pride in my heart. The Medicine man poised and ready to do a healing at a moments notice gave me goosebumps. It was a lot of fun sharing and brainstorming for this project. Thank you for including me and my husband. You are a gem of a lady and we are so blessed to know you. Much Love Hugz n ****SMUDGE**** dear friend.

    1. Thank You Charrine! Hugs and more hugs to you and Todd. I am so glad to see that I made the textile connections between our two communities meaningful for you and that you approve!!


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