Nu chexw kw’átchnexw kwétsi sḵel̓áw̓?// Can you See Beaver? is a community-based research and public art project led by Gitksan Witsuwit’en artist and community organizer Jolene Andrew and produced by grunt gallery Project Curator Nellie Lamb. The project began with a conversation about a historical beaver dam that once blocked Brewery Creek near the spot where Main St and 14th Ave now intersect. This led us to wonder about the absence of such an important animal in an urban socio-ecological system and consider how the history of beavers in this landscape can inform our relationships to the land now and into the future. Throughout the project we contemplated the importance of keystone species like the beaver, whose knowledge and skills build dams that create wetlands, providing habitat for many other plants and animals. Nu chexw kw’átchnexw kwétsi sḵel̓áw̓? is a reminder to take notice. The project looks to beavers and the other animals and plants in their communities as teachers and guides. It asks questions about obstruction and flow, what has changed and what has endured, and what we can learn from these histories in the ongoing and complex contexts of urbanization, colonization, and decolonization.
The project’s Squamish language title, Nu chexw kw’átchnexw kwétsi sḵel̓áw̓? refers to a beaver we can't necessarily see and asks, “Can you see the beaver?” We hope you will join us in opening our hearts and minds to searching for beaver’s teachings in the places we live.
The project is made up of several components created with many collaborators. These include Super Natural Mystical Birds and Animals, a house post carved by Eric MacPherson and Jolene Andrew, as well as several talks, stories, and tours about the area's history and beaver teachings that can be found on the 'Learning' page of this website.