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Prince George artist designs B.C. Reconciliation Awards paddle

The installation of the paddles also marks the call for 2023 Reconciliation Award nominees

A Prince George-based artist is the designer of one of two canoe paddles installed in Government House to honour the achievements of the British Columbia Reconciliation Award recipients.

The 2021 paddle was created by Kwakwaka'wakw artist Cole Speck, but the 2022 paddle was created by Prince George-based Dene and Carrier beader Crystal Behn.

The installations are part of an ongoing series of BC Reconciliation Award paddles that will be displayed in Government House in Victoria and this year's installations also marks the call for nominations for the 2023 BC Reconciliation Awards.

The awards are meant to recognize individuals, groups and organizations that have demonstrated exceptional leadership, integrity, respect and commitment to furthering reconciliation or inspired others to continue reconciliation efforts.

“As we launch the third year of the British Columbia Reconciliation Award, the image of the paddles resonates stronger than ever," said Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.

"It is through combined effort that paddles move a canoe forward. I see this united strength in our past recipients and look forward to witnessing it in the 2023 nominations. I am deeply honoured to display the reconciliation paddles at Government House as a symbol of this ongoing commitment, and I encourage all British Columbians to nominate those whose incredible work toward reconciliation has made a deep impact on their lives or communities."

Behn’s paddle is crafted from moosehide and designed with intricate beadwork.

"The traditional hand-smoked moosehide has a story. The moose was hunted, its meat fed many families. Tradition and knowledge were passed on from the hunt right to the art that was created from endless hours of preparing the hide. The beaded flower colours represent every Nation,” said Behn, the Indigenous programmer at Two Rivers Art Gallery.

She said the stitching that runs along the edge represents the mothers and grandmothers that stitched together their children's moccasins, many of those children did not return home from residential school. The red flower at the tip represents all the murdered and missing Indigenous woman, all our stolen sisters, the life givers.

“This paddle is bound together in the middle. My hope is that one day all nations will meet in the middle with understanding and compassion for one another. That all Indigenous Nations will be accepted and shown mutual respect."

The nomination period for the awards is open until Jan. 20, 2023.

"In its third year, the British Columbia Reconciliation Award continues to celebrate innovative and empowering ways to embark on this journey, designed and decided by Indigenous Peoples, allowing them to thrive while making the world a better place. We look forward to celebrating the 2023 award recipients,” said Cloy-e-iis, Judith Sayers (Hupacasath Nation), BC Achievement Foundation board member.

Nomination forms are available on the BC Achievement Foundation website:

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