The Campbell River community has lost one of its best, according to those who knew local artist, Wei Wai Kum First Nation band councillor and advocate for education, reconciliation and togetherness, Curtis Wilson.
Wilson – who was given the traditional name Mulidzas at a Potlach in 2001 – died of a major heart attack last weekend, but he will long be remembered and celebrated by those who knew him. He was known for celebrating his family heritage coming from the four corners of the Kwakwaka’wakw territory: his paternal grandparents from Axwamees (Wakeman Sound) and Wei Wai Kai (Cape Mudge) and his maternal grandparents from Ba’as (Blunden Harbour) and Wei Wai Kum (Campbell River).
At council on Monday night, Mayor Andy Adams asked for a moment of silence for Wilson to open the proceedings, calling him “just a fantastic individual, artist and contributor to our community.”
Long-time member of city council Charlie Cornfield says he’s fortunate to have had a long-term friendship with Wilson and calls his death a profound loss for Campbell River.
“Here’s a young Indigenous person that did a lot for our community, touched a lot of people in this community – Indigenous and otherwise,” Cornfield says, choking up a bit outside council chambers on Monday night. “I’m going to miss him a lot. We all are. Very much so.”
But it’s not just those who knew him personally who will remember the man. Wilson’s art is well-embedded in the community, from the Canadian Native Flag that flies at numerous locations around town – including city council chambers – to the Greenways Loop’s frog logo to the newly-designed logo for School District 72, his work and contributions to the community are numerous and will have long-lasting impacts.
Ken Blackburn, executive director of the Campbell River Arts Council also considers Wilson a close friend and says you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would say anything negative about the man.
“I have only extremely positive things about Curtis, as I think you’ll find is also the case for everyone else,” Blackburn says. “He’s one of the artists – and people – in town that makes Campbell River such a great place. He was extremely generous with his time, he was an extremely strong artist and person who contributed where he could. He was such an integral part of who are in the Campbell River arts community, not only as a visual artist, but you’d also find him at various events singing and drumming. He was just a really great guy who would do whatever he could to make the community a better place.
“He will certainly be missed and our hearts go out to his family.”
A public memorial service is reportedly being planned for those who would like to pay their respects and share their memories. Watch this space for updates on the date, time and location of that service when they are finalized.
The Mirror has reached out to the Wei Wai Kum Nation for its thoughts on Wilson and his legacy and will update this story when those comments are available.