Artist Cecil Dawson holding his family copper at the opening of Cecil Dawson: Standing in the Gap at the Museum at Campbell River. Museum at Campbell River photo

Artist Cecil Dawson holding his family copper at the opening of Cecil Dawson: Standing in the Gap at the Museum at Campbell River. Museum at Campbell River photo

New exhibit opens at the museum featuring Kwakwaka’wakw artist and Hereditary Chief Cecil Dawson

The new exhibit at the Museum at Campbell River explores the impacts of colonization through the experiences of one family, and one artist, Kwakwaka’wakw artist and Hereditary Chief G̱ixkastallasame-gi, or Cecil Dawson.

His contemporary artworks interpret this hurtful history and its continuing impact upon our society today. His paintings, carvings, and drawings are brought to life through the stories he shares. He offers an Indigenous perspective of the history of this coast and its peoples.

What does it mean, to be Standing in the Gap? For Dawson, it is to hold a place for those to come, to keep the position, prerogatives, songs, dances and history of his family alive for future generations. They were under attack by the Government of Canada through actions such as the Potlatch Ban and the Residential Schools. Museums played a role in this process of colonization, and they have an important role to play in reconciling that past. This exhibition of Dawson’s work was developed collaboratively to bring together old family pieces of regalia that have been held in museum collections, both in Campbell River and in Vancouver at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC.

Dawson’s artwork does more than just highlight a hurtful past.

Dawson says that, “we had lost everything, but now we are taking it back,” and that, “like with the rings in a tree, you can see the hard years, they look different, they have left a mark, but we keep growing, we keep moving forward.”

This exhibition, through sharing the experiences and perspective of one artist and his family, aims to critically examine our past, and to shine a light on how we can move forward together into the future.

During the opening ceremonies, Chief Robert Joseph spoke to the attendees:

“I’m really proud of our chief (Cecil Dawson). I walked in this morning and I thought “HOLY!” It just struck me. It’s so beautiful. And powerful. And it will carry a message for a long time. So, I congratulate my nephew, I congratulate Campbell River Museum for the transformation it’s been undergoing for a long time. They’ve wanted to help those people who use this museum, including indigenous people, to tell their own stories…

“And I thank Campbell River for supporting that kind of initiative, it’s always been that way. I used to be on the board of this very institution, a long time ago. And I’ve seen it transform to be one of, in its size, one of the most powerful institutions in the province and probably the country. Because it wasn’t afraid of change. It wasn’t afraid of inclusion. And so, we, us, Chief, keep on doing what you’re doing. Be inclusive, be visionary. Bring our people together, bring us all together.”

The opening ceremonies can be viewed on the Museum’s YouTube channel. There you will also find several videos where Cecil introduces himself and talks on various topics. The exhibit will be on display at the Museum at Campbell River until Nov. 6. For more information, please visit the Museum’s website at

RELATED: Museum at Campbell River first stop for Sacred Journeys exhibit

Royal B.C. Museum phasing out galleries that push colonial narrative

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