Public meeting on new Tsimshian cultural pavilion on Tuesday

The Prince Rupert Port Authority and the Chiefs of the Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla bands announced plans last week that could see a cultural pavilion constructed on the Prince Rupert waterfront. And now Rupertites will get to have their say.

A committee has been formed to conduct a feasibility study for the new project and meetings with community stakeholders from Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams were held last week. The committee will be holding a meeting to gather input from the Prince Rupert residents and businesses on the project at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 22. The meeting is being held inside Islander Hall located 150 6th Avenue west.

“The purpose of the meeting is to update the wider Prince Rupert community on the project, its structure, purpose, progress to date and the process moving forward. Feedback will be sought from participants and will be taken into consideration by the Project Team,” according to Port Authority press release.

Te Taru White is acting as a consultant for the pavilion project and has helped shape the idea for the pavilion. White is a member of the Maori people from New Zealand, and is the curator of Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum.

He travels around the world helping aboriginal communities try to turn their culture into an economic benefit like his people have managed to in the past several years, Now he hopes that the waterfront pavilion well be a stepping stone for the Tsimshian to share their culture and attract tourists.

“It was very favorably received [at the meetings in Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams] And why not? We’re talking about a people who are bursting at the seams to talk about, to organize, to promote and profile their culture as an integral part of Prince Rupert and the islands,” says White.

White says that he envisions the pavilion being located in the Cow Bay area in order for people who are disembarking cruise ships to be greeted with examples of Tsimshian culture. He says it shouldn’t be a museum where the focus would be on artifacts and archival history.

“This is more about interfacing with the living descendants of that culture. Looking at where they’ve come from and how they’ve evolved, the continuance of their art forms, and the uniqueness of their translation of the landscape to the visitor. So it’s highly engaging and people powered not object powered,” says White.

White says he would like to see a place that would meet visitors as they entered the harbour, ideally with a storyteller on board to begin the experience before they even leave the ship. Visitors could have drumming and dancing as they exited the ship. Then be guided to an interactive experience at the pavilion itself about the carving and weaving and storytelling that are found in Tsimshian culture.

When asked, White says he does know that the pavilion can’t be completed before the cruise ship stop coming in 2012, but says that the pavilion would be an excellent first step in winning them back.

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