Until I moved to Canada, I was oblivious to the similarities between the ‘First Nations’ people of Canada and the ‘Aborigines’ of Australia and the ‘Māori’ of New Zealand. They share a common struggle in the transition of their knowledge, history and culture to younger generations.
During the last couple of years, I’ve had the good fortune to meet significant members of the First Nations people and learn more about their culture, their how regionally and as a people they are striving to educate the next generation. On a recent trip I met with Tlingit carver Keith Wolf Smarch.
Keith is an educator, an artist and a community figure. He was fortunate to find a mentor and an educator who passed down the skills to become a First Nations carver. An artist at heart, as we talked, Keith constantly referred to his goals of including the younger generation and passing on what he has learnt to them, along with a thorough understanding of the history of his people.
When we met, Keith was in the process of carving a 40 foot tall Totem pole: for a carver this is equivalent of winning a grand slam in tennis….
He had also completed all the artwork on a recent complex of buildings near his workshop in Carcross. We were in Carcross to photograph this for Kobayashi and Zedda Architects.
Here’s some photographs of his work – the 40 footer in progress and the completed art work of the Carcross village.