First Artist of Aboriginal Descent to Win the Honour
VANCOUVER, BC (November 25, 2014) – A Haida Nation artist has won the honour of having her painting of a Pacific salmon appear on the fishing-license stamp that generates money for conservation of wild Pacific salmon. This is the first time in 25 years that a person of aboriginal descent has won the art contest, which is run by the Vancouver-based Pacific Salmon Foundation. The Recreational Fisheries Conservation Stamp, known as the “salmon stamp”, is a $6.00 decal that must be purchased annually by anglers and affixed to their saltwater fishing license if they wish to keep Pacific salmon caught off Canada’s west coast.
April White - SGaana Jaad’s acrylic painting on archival board entitled, ‘Salmon Tale’, won the contest following several rounds of balloting by judges on November 13 in Vancouver. This was the fifth entry in the annual art contest for White, who lives in Powell River and in Masset on Haida Gwaii. Before becoming a full-time artist, White received her Bachelor of Science degree from UBC and worked as a field geologist. Immersed in the environment, translating three dimensional visions into two via mapmaking, and rendering the natural world honed her inherent artistic inclination. Born on Haida Gwaii, White is of the Yahgu’jaanaas Raven Clan and she honours and draws inspiration from her heritage as she interprets the natural and mythological world in her art.
“In a tired moment at the end of the summer bed & breakfast/studio-gallery season, I briefly entertained the thought that I wouldn’t enter the contest again this year; but I found renewed energy with my resolve to continue entering until First Nations art was featured on the salmon stamp,” said White. “I am a food fisher and salmon are, from time immemorial to present, integral to the First Nations of the Pacific coast - spiritually, culturally, and for sustenance. We are ‘salmon people’.”
White said her formline painting, in the red and black colours of her ancestral traditions, captures how raven came to bring salmon to human beings and why they continue to spawn in coastal streams and rivers. The depiction shows the spawning form of Taawaan~Chinook salmon, representing the salmon chief, and within this, raven, who brings the chief’s son to the people with the whole salmon village in pursuit. They search for their lost son upstream, spawning under the sheltering arms of the cedar tree and ensuring the lifecycle continues. White said the message to people is to respect the rivers that flow from the land to the undersea world.
“The Pacific Salmon Foundation is thrilled that for the first time a First Nations representation of Pacific salmon will appear on the salmon stamp,” said Dr. Brian Riddell, president and CEO, Pacific Salmon Foundation. “More than 200,000 people buy the salmon stamp each year and we know that the artwork on the stamp is a meaningful representation of the significance of Pacific salmon in British Columbia to all anglers. It’s particularly gratifying that April White, a long-time friend of the Pacific Salmon Foundation and five-time entrant in the art contest, has won this historic honour.”
Riddell said $7.75 million of salmon stamp revenue has been directed to more than 2,000 community conservation projects since 1989. The funds are collected by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which has prevue over saltwater fishing licenses. This year, in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Foundation announced $1.5 million in grants to 121 projects in 72 communities across British Columbia. The total value of these projects including volunteer time and in-kind donations was $9.1 million in 2014.
The art was judged by a panel of nine artists and conservationists: Carolynn Beaty, Sitka Foundation; Pat George, University of Victoria Visual Arts Department (retired); Bernie Hanby, prominent conservationist; George Illes, Powell River Salmon Society; Bob Kronbauer, Vancouver is Awesome; James Lawson, Transport Canada (retired); Ed Oldfield, artist and retired art educator; John Ring, Powell River Salmon Society; and Jeff Whiting, Artists for Conservation.
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