BC | Canada 150 Grant Recipient Project Highlights

Northern Trails Historical Society

Project: “Emergence” – Public Art Sculpture
Funding Received: $20,000

A Caterpillar Trencher used in the building of the Alaska Highway has been transformed into a public art sculpture, titled “Emergence”. Emergence seeks to reflect the history of the Peace-Liard’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and to emblemize a community moving together toward a deeper understanding of both.

The project provided a unique opportunity for artists in the community to work with internationally renowned Indigenous artist, Brian Jungen. The project brought together both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists in a truly meaningful way, and the emphasis of indigenous perspective greatly strengthened the power of the sculpture. The aim was to use the historic artifact as a shared canvas where artists could express their individual experiences side by side. Emergence celebrates difference. The public art project has helped build relationships between communities, artists and the partnering organizations and indigenous groups.

“Emergence” is now permanently displayed at the National Alberta Railway (NAR) Park in Dawson Creek, BC, which also houses the Dawson Creek Art Gallery and The Dawson Creek Station Museum. It is a prime location, marking Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway. Northern Trails Historical Society partnered with the Peace Liard Regional Arts Council to apply for BC | Canada 150 funding, and with the City of Dawson Creek to provide a permanent location and in-kind contributions of site set-up and vegetation.

The public art project not only evokes the complex layers of history that grew out of this piece of machinery, but that it also highlights the idea of new growth and moving together in positive ways toward our collective future.

Emergence- Northern Trails

Emergence: displays several lines of poetry and quotes:

1. Translated from Cree, the following line expresses the experience of bulldozers coming through Indigenous camps: “Giant kettles are coming through the bush, and they leave a trail where nothing grows.”

2. Cut into the boom of the sculpture are lines from Helen Knott’s poem, “Dear Prime Minister: this poet has something to say to you about Indigenous rights.” The full poem, which was made into a video, can be viewed online here »

3. The following lines were written by Dean Mattson: “Am I integral or just turning a useless little wheel / Come see what pretty thing from ugliness grew.” From these provocative words, many meanings may emerge, depending on the unique perspectives and experiences of those who read them.

Emergence- Northern Trails Emergence- Northern Trails

Photos submitted