Kwantlen artist Brandon Gabriel talks about the pier panels he designed that now adorn the Ruskin Dam. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Kwantlen story told on Ruskin Dam pier panels

Artist Brandon Gabriel at official celebration

Six new pier panels on the Ruskin Dam depict a visual retelling of the Kwantlen people’s history in the community.

The official unveiling of the artwork took place Thursday where more than 80 people gathered at the dam to celebrate the installation of the panels.

Kwantlen artist Brandon Gabriel, who designed the panels, was also there.

The panels are made from Core 10 steel with a weathered aesthetic and a sienna finish and they took Gabriel around four years to design and construct.

The first panel illustrates the Raven and the Sun. The Raven is a shapeshifter spirit that can take on the form of any living being on earth and is known as the bringer of the first sunrise.

The next panel is called Two Salmon.

Gabriel wanted to honour the waterway that was a well known estuary for spawning salmon before the dam was built. He also wanted to show the attributes in salmon that humans can relate to like the idea of climbing mountains and going against the current against all odds to make your way back to the home you were born. Also the connection to water and how the dam gets power from the water and provides life and sustenance to the people of the land around it.

The next panel is of the Frog, a small creature that has a significant spiritual and cultural presence because it has the ability to move between the land and the water. It also sees and knows all, a power not lost on B.C. Hydro president and Chief Operating Officer Chris O’Riley, who said that the frog will be constantly looking over the operations of the dam.

The fourth panel is of the Mountain Goat and First Sunrise honouring the historical connection between humans and mountain goats that were plentiful at one time in the Golden Ears Mountain Range.

The last two panels are of the Kwantlen Wolf Clan crest, that are mounted like bookends to the previous four panels.

Incorporating the clan crest is important in identifying the family and clan whose territory is being represented.

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