Like the living, breathing fish, a carved wooden salmon is undergoing a life cycle of its own.
In 2002, First Nations carver John Sayers and a group of seven First Nations students carved the fish out of a large cedar log that came from Kitwanga in northwestern B.C. It took them about six weeks, including evenings and weekends.
They made it on behalf of Neskonlith elder Mary Thomas because she had done so much work for the Salmon River watershed. The group of students who created it – Josh Arnouse, Dana Arnouse, Chelsea Hooper, Hat Pooly, Simon Smith, Malcolm Testawitz and Joe Thomas – included her grandchildren.
The 15-foot carving, complete with a knot that stretches through the width of the fish to form eyes on both sides, was placed on the breakwater in Salmon Arm Bay. A plaque was made and presented with it, but Sayers said he doesn’t believe it was ever erected.
Then, after 10 years, the wooden fish decided to go for a swim. With the high water and wave action in the bay in early July, it was found floating near the marina. Now, it’s sitting on pallets in front of the Sullivan campus of Salmon Arm Secondary, where it will be brought back to its former self. The students – once again including grandchildren of late elder Mary Thomas – will be cleaning it up, removing varnish and then painting a mural on it designed by student Chloe Abbott. The mural will depict some of the natural landscape of Salmon Arm.
It will be up to the students what they want to do with it. Possibilities, says Sayers, would include setting it up either inside or outside the school.