Presentation House Theatre is undergoing a long-term process of reconciliation, decolonization, and anti-racism work that centre Indigenous voices, perspectives, lessons, and ways of being. This work includes education, policy and protocol change, self-directed Indigenous projects, community events, and art installations.
As we walk through the history and stories of each of these pieces, we have something we would like you to keep in mind: this is about our learning and our journey, there have been mistakes we have made along the way. We celebrate the bravery, patience, and courage of the artists for sharing their art with us as we work to create space at PHT for Indigenous art to grow and flourish.
These are living projects that represent growth in real time.
Where did we start:
We started with a desire for improved and meaningful land recognition. In the search for people to help us begin building a foundation for this work we met Rebecca Duncan and Bob Baker and together began to build up ways to honour the land we create on. Through this process, we formed relationships with others, including Chief Janice George and Dallas Guss, who both approached us with a desire to connect with the past and see the ways it shapes our future.
With all these ideas gifted to us, we supported them in their ideas for projects they wanted to see. Now we are working with a group of 12 Squamish artists in “good council”, many of whom have contributed to the art in the building and are shaping major projects and new ways of working. This work is based on the people who came to us – some relationships were short-term and project-based, others have lasted.
Lobby Weaving Project:
- In 2019, Chief Janice George walked into a room with a Chief Dan George display left behind from our former building partners, the North Vancouver Museum and Archives, and said, “This is the weaving room.”
- We named the space the Weaving Room and partnered with Chief Janice on a year-long residency, where she taught weaving lessons and created a piece for our lobby.
- In August of 2022, the weaving was hung in our lobby during Nchem̓ús Day.
- This project was funded by a North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission grant.
- Our partnership with Xwalacktun began in 2017 when he designed an image for First Welcome Hy’chka, a large-scale community event.
- In 2020, we commissioned him to turn that image into a carving – it took some time to get off the ground, and in 2022, the carving was gifted to us and hung outside the doors on the 4th Street entrance to the building.
- This project was funded by the North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission grant.
Chief Ian Campbell's Painting:
- We commissioned Chief Ian Campbell to create a painting of his choice. He decided to do a large-format painting of the North Shore, displaying life pre-contact, including villages, ways of living, legends, and ancestors.
- The painting was completed and hung in 2022 right outside of our offices during Nchem̓ús Day.
- The British Columbia Arts’ Council funded this piece as a part of a grant to further embed land honouring into our grounds and facility.
The Talking Tree:
- The Talking Tree began as a Golden Firefly project for seniors to share their stories, designed by Joel Grinke along with our Golden Firefly artists.
- In 2021, Rebecca Duncan partnered with Joel Grinke to share the story of the Two Sisters using the Talking Tree, using the Squamish language as well as English to tell the story.
- In 2021 Rebecca Duncan created a welcome video for the lobby that celebrates and honours the land and its original caretakers, to be viewed by everyone who attends shows, workshops, and other events in the building.
- The First Nchem̓ús Day was back in 2018 and was called First Welcome Hy’chka. From there it grew into a community event we are grateful to bring back every year.
- An open house day of welcoming, Nchem̓ús Day is a celebration of our Indigenous artist partners. The name Nchem̓ús means “people coming together.” It comes from a consultation counsel between Dallas Guss and Dustin Rivers, who gifted the theatre the name.
- Led by Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, Elders, artists, storytellers, and friends, this free annual community event features artwork unveilings, carving demonstrations, traditional and untraditional storytelling, stand-up comedy, and the chance to play the Indigenous game of Slahal.
- In 2021, we had the amazing opportunity for Sam, Dallas, and Kim to work with Landesbühnen Sachsen GmbH in Germany. They brought parts of the teaching we have at Nchem̓ús Day overseas and hosted two workshops.
- Keith joined the PHT Creative Hub back in 2020 to produce his own comedy shows and since then, we have hosted and supported his work, including live and filmed performances.
- Elder Lisa Lewis approached us with the idea of adapting our Firefly program to incorporate her storybook, Tsunaxen’s Journey.
- The project was completed with Capilano Little Ones, and has led to further partnerships on storytelling projects.
There are several Indigenous-led projects in development. This includes plans for further art installations and physical honouring of the land, provided to us by Rebecca Duncan, as well as performances and other creations that we are supporting to develop.
As the Rez Turns:
- In 2019, Hannah McLean wrote a short play, then called Rez Slang, about a reservation dog’s funeral. This story has since expanded to a one-act with Sam Seward and Gabriel George, with support from Director of Applied Theatre here at PHT, Manami Hara.
- In 2023, a staged reading took place at PHT. We invited community member to watch. The key artists are currently developing their vision for the future of the project.