Tseshaht First Nation researcher Darrel Ross displays a whale figure carved by artist Gordon Dick that will be part of the Tseshaht whaling exhibit at the Maritime Discovery Centre.

Tseshaht First Nation researcher Darrel Ross displays a whale figure carved by artist Gordon Dick that will be part of the Tseshaht whaling exhibit at the Maritime Discovery Centre.

Tseshaht whaling exhibit to be unveiled

A Tseshaht First Nation whaling exhibit at the Maritime Discovery Centre will feature a mix of historical and contemporary art

Finishing touches are being put in a special exhibit showcasing the Tseshaht First Nation’s history of whaling.

The exhibit will be shown at the Maritime Discovery Centre on Harbour Road starting in June and will run for the rest of the summer at least, Alberni Valley Museum director Jamie Morton said.

“The exhibit will centre around the tradition of whale hunting to Tseshaht culture,” Morton said. “It’s a central touch-point, and takes them back to when those resources were used in the Barkley Sound.”

Talks with the Port Alberni Maritime Heritage Society about the exhibit have been going on for eight months, Tseshaht senior researcher and planner Darrell Ross said.

The exhibit is being underwritten by Tseshaht as well as by a grant from the First Peoples’ Cultural Council.

The display will feature harpoon points, elk bone, mussel shell blades and rope from the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.

The pieces were originally gathered by anthropologist Edward Sapir when he did research in Tseshaht territory in the early 1900’s, Ross said.

The exhibit will also have contemporary pieces melded in it.

Wooden panels with text on them are being crafted that will chronicle Tseshaht whaling history, how whaling was done and the spiritual aspect of the practice.

Tseshaht artist Gordon Dick has also been commissioned to produce a carved whale dorsal fin. Willard Gallic Jr. has also been commissioned to do some work.

And a produced by the late Tseshaht historian George Clutesi depicting a whaling scene will be shown.

The title of the exhibit will likely be the traditional names for either whaling or gathering whaling gear, Ross said.

The name Tseshaht refers to Benson Island and roughly translated means  “place that smells of whale oil.”

“Tseshaht were whalers. They lived by the sea and hunted on it,” Ross said.

Talks are in the works that would see the exhibit held over in summer 2015.

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