Sharing stories, down the generations

Tsimshian artist and storyteller Roy Henry Vickers weaves a beautiful and simplistic tale inspired by his childhood in the Indigenous village of Kitkatla through Ben the Sea Lion, a children’s picture book that will also delight any age group.

“My childhood outside of school was connected to nature. My work has always been influenced by my relationship to the land and the people who live on the land,” Vickers says.

Set to be released on Apr. 30, Ben the Sea Lion retells an adventure from Vickers’ childhood. The book contains fifteen original illustrations, made by the author, that encapsulate the splendour of B.C’s West Coast.

Two youths and a sea lion’s adventures in the Indigenous village of Kitkatla. | Photo courtesy of Harbour Publishing

A fun, chaotic adventure

Ben the Sea Lion details young Vickers and his cousin, Bussy, befriending an orphaned sea lion pup after it was accidentally caught by his uncle. They name the sea lion pup Ben, and under the boys’ care, Ben quickly grows into a full-fledged adult sea lion. The three of them embark upon a fun, and perhaps amusingly chaotic, adventure in the Indigenous village of Kitkatla, including having Ben help tow the boys’ skiffs and standing up to local dogs.

Soon enough, it is time for Ben to return to the wild, forcing him to part with his human friends. Vickers and Bussy are not dismayed or saddened by Ben’s leaving, rather, they look back on their time with him fondly.

In his books, Vickers would like to draw a connection between his time in Kitkatla and the time of previous generations. He aims to demonstrate how even though time passes, the stories of the land and the people of the land remain immortal in the tales passed down and shared from generation to generation.

A multimedia artist

Vickers was born in 1946 in northern British Columbia, residing at various times in Kitkatla, Tofino, and Victoria. He draws inspiration not only from his heritage, but also from the magnificent natural beauty surrounding him as he was growing up, as evident in his work. In his other books, such as Storyteller and Voices from the Skeena, readers can expect the same amount of literary charm that Vickers can deliver.

Tsimshian artist and storyteller Roy Henry Vickers. | Photo courtesy of Roy Henry Vickers

Vickers has been an author for 34 years, and is greatly inspired by friends who are also authors. Wilson Duff, Hilary Stewart and George Clutesiare among others, are writers who have influenced him.

Aside from writing, Vickers is also a painter, carver and printmaker. His creative endeavours have enabled him to become a well-known and respected member of both the artistic community and the First Nations community. In addition to being a recognized Indigenous leader, he is also a spokesperson for recovery from addictions and abuse.

Vickers has received many awards and honours for his works and community involvement, among them being the first artist ever featured in Maclean magazine’s Annual Honour Roll of Extraordinary Canadian Achievers, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal. In addition, in 1987, Vickers’ original painting A Meeting of Chiefs was the official gift of the Province of British Columbia to Queen Elizabeth II.

Vickers is one of Canada’s most successful and prolific artists, and his passion for expressing stories through numerous artistic mediums will continue to move his fans across the country and elsewhere.

“I love creating images that have been in my head for over 65 years,” he says.

More stories on the horizon

Vickers’ previous and current works promise a future full of art and beauty showcased with traditional Indigenous mediums. Seeing as his childhood and heritage are major inspiration points for him, readers can hope for many more stories of his adventures in Tofino, Victoria and Kitkatla, as well as look forward to many more art pieces motivated by his culture.

His followers will be delighted to know that Vickers will persist in his artistic journey.

“I will continue to share the stories I am inspired to share,” he vows.

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