With his deerskin drum and a bit of humour, Tsimshian artist and storyteller Bill Helin spoke to students in Prince Rupert about respect last week.
“What I tried to share with the children, the younger ones, is more about respecting the stories and the traditions,” Helin said.
Engaging the students at Roosevelt Elementary School on Thursday, Feb. 22 didn’t seem to be a challenge for the veteran artist.
“Our traditions almost faded away because they weren’t being practiced,” he said to a group of students in the Roosevelt library. Helin commended them, and the school district, on learning Sm’algyax, the Tsimshian langauge.
In his presentation to elementary students he spoke about his drum, what the designs on the cover mean and how he illustrates children’s books using a computer. Helin has illustrated more than 100 books, and has written and illustrated at least a dozen more.
“With the younger ones, I try to ingrain a little bit of fun in there with the songs, but again it really comes down to trying to leave a lasting impression based upon the fact that the traditions are fun and beautiful at the same time,” Helin said.
Helin, who was born in Prince Rupert, is now based in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. He has been doing traditional art since 1980, but he said drawing for children’s books is the most enjoyable thing he does.
He also paid a visit to Charles Hays Secondary School where he tried to leave them with a positive message on their future.
“A lot of the young people are having a difficult time wondering what kind of hope they have for the future,” he said.
“You never know what’s going to happen on that canoe journey. You never know what the storms are going to be like, especially in northern B.C. But in this world, because it’s ever changing and fast now. I’m trying to relate to them more on how I survived through tough times and the fact that I got through them.”