Over the last month, local Native artist Terry Jackson has been working with students at Boundary Central Senior Secondary (BCSS) and Grand Forks Senior Secondary (GFSS) under a grant through the Artists in the Classroom program to create a pair of tile murals featuring a thunderbird rising into the air above a great killer whale. “The idea of the thunderbird being the messenger of the Creator and overcoming the darkness of the whale and the undersea world,” explained Jackson.
He said that in northwest Native art, the thunderbird typically represented the messenger from the Creator and was a sacred creature from the sky world and the mountains. “When you saw it would be very awe inspiring.”
In most of the stories the thunderbird would take the whales and eat them at their nests up in the mountains.
“They say you can still find whalebones up in the mountains,” said Jackson.
Thunderbird represents that the Creator is much bigger than the whole scene that we see. It’s bigger than the world of darkness. When you see them together the thunderbird is always overcoming the whale.
The whale represents those parts of our personality— the instinctual parts of our personality that don’t have consciousness. “Some call it the reptilian part of ourselves,” explained Jackson. “We are just going by the instincts there is not any kind of illumination or consciousness to what we are doing.
“The underwater world represents the unknown— the unseen.”
The BCSS students are working with Aboriginal education teacher Marilyn Hanson, while the GFSS students work with Wanda Hecht. GFSS is also fortunate to have filmmaker Chris Bose who has documented the processes.
The primary funding partner is the non-profit group called ArtStarts, which has a long history of bringing professional artists into classrooms across B.C. The local school district also provided funding through the Aboriginal Education budget.
ArtStarts supports projects that put students in direct contact with a professional artist in residence in their classroom and aims to connect an art form and another subject area to meet evolving objectives in both.
A blessing ceremony for the BCSS mural will be held on Jan. 21, 2014.