Sunday, February 16, 2020
Tracks, Traces, Tracings
It took me a while to grow into the paintings of Dene Suline and Saulteaux artist Alex Javier (see his Networking Curator, 1988, above). Only after meeting Alex during his 2017 UBC Okanagan residency was I able to follow his colours, lines and forms. Landscapes, yes, and the great bird ("pterodactyl") who knows through its own form the shapes its rivers take -- all of it suggested by an even greater force, the Creator.
Alex did a series of gouache drawings for his residency, which he hung on the wall like pages from a book. If you visited him at the FCCS FINA Gallery, he would walk you through these pages, tracing his finger over their thin and thinning lines -- as he did with me, on one occasion stopping to trace back his finger and tap on a spot that I hadn't noticed (he knew me well enough by then to know I would have said something if I had). "Here," he said. "Here is the railway. Often along rivers. That's where most indigenous people lived. Along rivers." Alex looked at me. "You can understand why." Yes, I told him, I think I can.
The "official" national narrative has it that the completion of the railway ("across empty country") was the making of and the taking of what is known today as Canada. Evidence of this taking can be found in the country's legal history, where railway execs and indigenous people have been warring over unceded and treaty territory long before those first western tracks were laid. This war has intergenerational implications, not only for indigenous people but for those in the legal profession. A notable local case is the Macaulay family.
James Macaulay is a partner in Macaulay McColl, a firm that, in 1987, "billed nearly $738, 365 acting for the Justice Department in three native land claims, including the Gitskan Wet'suwet'en trial. In the previous year the firm had billed about $339, 000 for those cases." James Macaulay's daughter Mary is a partner in Mandell Pinder. Here is Mary's professional summary: