The theme for this year’s virtual BC Heritage Fair was “People of British Columbia,” and Ryan Joseph, a Grade 4 student at Devon Gardens Elementary, chose his uncle as the subject of this project not only because Harry is part of his family, but also a part of his heritage.
“I wanted to do an Indigenous project to learn more about my own culture and to share it with my class. I love Coast Salish art and knowing that my uncle Rick has made such impressive works was an inspiration to me,” Ryan said in a post on the Delta School District website.
Harry, who named to the Order of British Columbia in 2012, was born and raised in Squamish and educated at Emily Carr College of Art and Capilano College before embarking on a 30-year career as an internationally recognized artist and cultural ambassador, according to a bio posted on Order of British Columbia website.
He works in wood, glass and steel and is best known for his remarkable wood carvings, which can be seen in high-profile locations across the Lower Mainland.
“These are among more than 80 pieces he has carved for schools and other institutions throughout B.C. and around the world,” the bio reads, before going on to state that Harry was “the first Aboriginal artist chosen to receive a licence to produce 2010 Olympics-related designs.”
“With influence extending well beyond B.C.’s borders, Mr. Harry has been commissioned by galleries in New York and New Hampshire to produce carvings. He has been featured on high-profile television programs, including Sesame Street, and has — for a decade — conducted totem carving classes in Scotland, helping people there preserve their own heritage.”
In preparing his Heritage Fair project, Ryan researched his uncle on the internet and interviewed him at his workshop in West Vancouver.
“That was my favourite part because he showed me small totems that were his draft models and how he would use them to create large totem poles,” Ryan said.
In recognition of his excellent work, the BC Heritage Fairs Alumni Council awarded Ryan the Alumni Choice Award, which comes with a one-year subscription to Kayak: Canada’s History Magazine for Kids.
“I feel great about winning this award and it makes me so happy to share my Squamish Nation culture with everyone!” Ryan said. “Thank you to the Delta Heritage Society for this opportunity and thank you to Mme Oliveira for encouraging me along the way.”
“I am so proud of Ryan,” Karen Oliveira, Ryan’s teacher at Devon Gardens, said in a post on the school district’s website. “His presentation about his uncle is outstanding in terms of the depth and quality of his research. He is extremely deserving of this award.”