Shore to Shore is an amazing sculpture with an equally amazing history. The official unveiling was in Brockton Point, Stanley Park on April 25, 2015. The artist is Ts’uts’umutl Luke Marston, an accomplished young Coast Salish artist who lives in Ladysmith, B.C.
The history of Shore to Shore begins with Luke’s great great grandfather Joe Silvey who came to B.C. from the Portuguese Azores Islands on a whaling ship. It was a way for young men to leave an impoverished life and hope for something better. But for “Portuguese Joe,” as he later became known, the something better would have to wait till he reached B.C. Most young men on the whaling ships from the Azores were paid little – if anything – and were worked like slaves. Probably because of these conditions, Joe jumped ship in Vancouver around 1860.
Joe’s story is one rooted in a Portuguese culture based on resourcefulness and respect for family. Joe welcomed the challenges of his new life and tried gold mining, did some whaling in Burrard Inlet, and had a saloon in Gastown called Hole in the Wall, which competed with Gassy Jack’s saloon. Gastown is named after Gassy Jack Deighton. Managing a saloon was not an easy feat for the weak of heart as Vancouver was really the “wild west” in the 1860s. Another important achievement of Joe’s was the introduction of seine fishing nets to B.C. This enabled the mass catching of fish, especially herring. He was the first in B.C. to obtain an official seine fishing license.
Joe soon had aspirations to marry and not long after arriving in B.C., he married a Coast Salish woman of Musqueam and Squamish background. Her name was Khalinaht, and she was of noble ancestry. Her grandfather was Squamish Chief Joe Kiapilano and her uncle Sam Kwee-ahkult was chief at the Squamish Xwayxway village on the south shore of Burrard Inlet, that would later become Stanley Park. This marriage had the blessing of Chief Kiapilano and was a completely Aboriginal ceremony. Mixed marriages were certainly not popular with mainstream B.C. society, and probably not with all Aboriginals. But times were changing, and the Aboriginal population had been decimated by disease brought by the Europeans. This might have been seen as a pragmatic way of continuance.
Joe soon moved with his new wife to a village in today’s Brockton Point area of Stanley Park, traditionally known as Xwayxway. The future Stanley Park had been home to the Coast Salish for thousands of years. They had villages and places where they fished seasonally. As late as 1870, Khalinaht’s daughter Elizabeth recalls a potlatch in Stanley Park, where Lumberman’s Arch is now located, attended by thousands of Coast Salish from all over the lower mainland. Where Joe lived with Khalinaht, there were other immigrants of European, Chinese, and Hawaiian ancestry who had mixed marriages with Coast Salish women, and they mutually supported each other. This general area was also a sacred place to the the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh people who were all connected by family and cultural ties.
Khalinaht died young from tuberculosis, leaving Joe with two children. He soon remarried another Salish woman, Kwatleematt from the Sechelt First Nation, and had nine more children with her. Joe went on to become the first Portuguese to receive British citizenship, and soon gained a sizeable amount of land on Reid Island, just off the north coast of Galiano Island. He moved there with Kwatleematt around 1879 when rising racism towards mixed married couples was making life difficult at Brockton Point. With the help of Kwatleematt he continued to be successful. He built his own sloop, the Morning Star and sailed up and down the coast making money from selling fish and fish oil. His family farmed on Reid Island and he also had a little store there where he sold supplies to other fisherman.
New immigrants like Joe are always praised with the building of B.C.’s society. This is praiseworthy but it should also be appreciated that the Coast Salish had a completely successful society with a highly developed culture before any immigrant set foot in this area. And the Aboriginal wives and Aboriginal people in general were key to the success of the new immigrants like Joe. They worked very hard in the new resource industries like lumber and fishing. And they had the traditional skills and knowledge of how to hunt, fish, and live off the land to impart to new settlers that made the building of B.C. a success.
Inspired by his family’s desire to have something substantial to commemorate the history of Joe Silvey, Luke Marston’s sculpture is a monument to the cooperative relationship of both his Coast Salish and Portuguese ancestors. It was a difficult project to achieve nearly five years in the making. First carved in cedar and later cast in bronze, it is over five meters in height and weighs over 1,800 kg. The three figures in the sculpture represent Joe and his two wives. They are standing beside the three fins of an oversized cod lure which come together to form a triangular peak. This peak represents Mount Pico on the Azores and simultaneously B.C. mountain peaks. The “peak” is in the form of a carved head which represents the eagle in Coast Salish culture and the açor, a raptor, in Portuguese culture. The floor of the pedestal and the outside circle around the sculpture’s base were designed by Luke and executed by Azores stone mason Carlos Menezes. The floor of the pedestal has an eagle/açor design. The 6.4 metre outside circle is a black and white stone mosaic Coast Salish/Portuguese motif of swirling waves. It represents the shore to shore concept of the sculpture from the Atlantic shores of the Azores to the Pacific shores of B.C.
The unveiling ceremony was attended by many Coast Salish, some of whom are direct descendants of Joe who has more than 500 in B.C. There were representatives of Portugal and the Azores, as well as local representatives, including the lieutenant governor of B.C., and Vancouver’s consul general of Portugal. There was a Coast Salish blanketing ceremony honouring all those significantly involved. You can view people with blankets in the background of the picture. A Salish dancer can be seen spreading down feathers to bless the grounds that are being walked on and to bring good feeling to those who stand on the grounds. It was also a blessing of protection for the people who where being blanketed. Later Portuguese folkloric dancers were performing on the same mosaic circle as the Salish dancer.
There is much more to the sculpture and its symbols but it is best viewed in its natural surrounding at Brockton Point. For more information on Luke Marston and the sculpture visit www.shoretoshore.ca