Beacon Project

Halifax to Clayoquot Sound: Re/Writing & Re/Righting History

Cross-country, cross-cultural transmissions from Tla-o-qui-aht on Vancouver Island to K’jipuktuk, Nova Scotia – an investigation into historical documents and the exploration of truth(s) and hi/stories.

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The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia houses a print from The Illustrated London News in 1864 titled, “A conflict with the Indians of Vancouver Island.” The article highlights two etchings – one of a burning village, another of an “Indian with a Flag of Truce,” alongside a detailed account of the burning of a First Nations village in Clayoquot Sound. The article, filled with geographical, cultural and historical errors, is nevertheless a hi(story), a story that remains today.

For this project, Nuu-chah-nulth artist Hjalmer Wenstob, from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations of Clayoquot Sound, and white settler artist Carly Butler, aim to interrogate the stories transmitted through the photos and words of the London News article. For example, the “Indian with a Flag of Truce” photo depicts a First Nations man with a downward facing paddle – in Nuu-chah-nulth a sign of war, not peace or 'truce'.

The Illustrated London News tells one story, a story that was transmitted across oceans, a story that remains in our archives today. Yet, Wenstob’s family tells other stories, passed down through generations. This project is not only to re-tell histories, but it is to re-story the hi(stories) themselves. As a Nuu-chah-nulth artist and a non-Indigenous artist working together, Halifax to Clayoqout Sound will capture the process of re-discovering old stories, and of following those stories as they were transmitted – across oceans, continents, generations – and then back again to Clayoquot Sound. How do we hear these stories, and how do we transmit them forward?

Through this project, Wenstob and Butler want not only to point out historical errors, but also to engage in a reciprocal conversation, to re-story the historical records through a process of re/writing and re/righting. Thomas King once wrote that “the truth about stories is, that's all we are." Our Nuu-chah-nulth Elders remind us though, that a story loses something in the telling. We see this in the natural world, in echolocation: not everything that is sent out returns, and what returns is often different than what we sent - it is a revised story of our world. Transmitting across the country from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia, the project will use the historical document in the archives of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS) as a starting point for dialogue. This dialogue will include the letterpress printing of Nuu-chah-nulth text and English to create a literal ‘re/write’ of this historical text, using the same colonial era printing method used in the 1800s. Video, photo, and audio from Clayoquot Sound near Tofino will also be transmitted to K’jipuktuk/Halifax over the duration of Nocturne.

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